LETHAL injection poses a danger of cruelly inhumane executions with excruciating pain, an attorney for two death row inmates has told the US Supreme Court in a capital punishment case that has drawn worldwide attention.Personally, I oppose execution, and for the simple reason that if they get it wrong, which they do, then there’s no getting it right. A twenty-five year wrongful conviction is dreadful, but at least, if you’re still alive, you have time (and potentially some recourse if you’ve been found to have been wrongfully convicted), and can make the most of the life you have left. A wrongful conviction and jail term is something I’m prepared to live with. A wrongful execution is not.
That said, if you’re going to execute people, [Ed: link warning – some nasty images and a list of some fairly appalling botched executions] then isn’t it important to get it right? What ever happened to a simple overdose of a barbiturate (the suicide method of choice, up until they stopped making sleeping pills using these chemicals)?
The standard method of lethal injection involves administering sodium thiopental, which causes unconsciousness, pancuronium bromide, which results in paralysis, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.Complexity: a recipe for error.
"I'm terribly troubled by the fact that the second drug is what seems to cause all risk of excruciating pain, and seems to be almost totally unnecessary," Justice John Paul Stevens said.Agreed. So why use it?
Mr Verrilli [Ed: the lawyer representing the two death row inmates] proposed as an alternative using just a single dose of the barbiturate sodium thiopental, along with adopting other safeguards, such as more effective monitoring of the inmate by trained personnel.I agree with Mr Verrilli, too. What’s the story here?