Friday, January 24, 2014

We Execute—but First we Torture a Bit



The Dennis McGuire execution in Ohio has been all over the news lately and quite properly so. Now I am on record as opposing the Death Penalty for a number of reasons, but I’ve set them aside in this case and make the argument without bias.
 
CBS News, 1-21-14: Prison officials gave McGuire intravenous doses of two drugs, the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone, to put him to death. The method was adopted after supplies of a previously used drug dried up because the manufacturer declared it off limits for capital punishment.


Guardian-UK 1-20-14: The anaesthesiologist who told a court that a new two-drug protocol used in an execution in Ohio would cause the inmate “agony and horror”, has expressed anger the state pressed ahead with the experiment despite his warnings.

David Waisel, associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school, who acted as expert witness for Dennis McGuire's defence attorneys, said he was angry when he learned Ohio had gone ahead with the execution last Thursday using a previously untested combination of midazolam and hydromorphone.

Eyewitness accounts from inside the death chamber suggest his predictions turned out to be accurate.

The outcry among the public was strong and now the Ohio State Senate (who reinstated the Ohio Death Penalty and passed it into law) are falling all over themselves to either rescind the law or require the Governor to be present during all executions. Politicians are indeed political, what a surprise. When not grifting for re-election funds, they tend to jump on bandwagons. But that’s not the issue.

The issue is in fact that, if we are to continue to hold our position as the only ‘advanced’ Western nation to execute, we ought to be able to do it with the same comfortable means we provide when we euthanize our house pets. I mean, why not?

Heading up the ‘why not’ side of the argument was an un-named Ohio official who, confronting David Waisel’s (associate professor of anaesthesia at Harvard medical school) similar testimony in a pre-execution hearing before the US district court for the southern district of Ohio, said: “You're not entitled to a pain-free execution.” Entitled? Not entitled? Now there’s a man who shouldn’t be allowed near a vet’s office, much less the Ohio Prison System. The Constitution does protect citizens from cruel and unusual punishment, but apparently ‘gasping for breath for at least 10 minutes, snorting loudly, clenching his (McGuire’s) fists and trying to sit up from the gurney’ is neither cruel nor unusual in his opinion.

Now McGuire is not a nice guy, imprisoned and given the Death Penalty for raping and murdering a 22 year-old woman whose unborn child also died. No one in their right mind would want him returned to society and Ohio (among 34 other states) has seen fit to continue to execute. Many of them share the (until now) untested combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. 

Time was, we hanged or shot people publicly—either of which were quicker and less tortuous than the current death cocktails we inject into those enduring capital punishment. But public executions became unfashionable. It seems the public, but for a few sadists, just become squeamish watching someone die by command. So we got creative, adding the gas chamber, dusting off the electric chair and torturing ourselves and our victims with lethal injection. 

The Supreme Court briefly suspended the Death Penalty between 1972 and 1976, finding it both ‘cruel and unusual,’ but they quickly got religion in 1976 and reinstated it at the discretion of state law.

Wikipedia: From 1976 to January 16, 2014, there were 1,362 executions, of which 1,187 were by lethal injection, 158 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 3 by firing squad.

508 of those executions were held in Texas, 152 under George Bush and 235 in the eleven years of Rick Perry’s governorship. Those Texans are tough.

But enough chit-chat over numbers and constitutionality. We have it in 34 states and as long as we have it, we ought to carry it out in as humane a way as possible. There are better ways.

Even your vet would agree on that.


5 comments:

  1. It's too bad we can't bring the victims back and ask them if what was done to them was humane. How about the families of the victims, are they given the opportunity to put their lives back together again as if nothing happened?
    Let's hold pity parties for the convicted killers. I could care less if they are put to death in agony. I am all for the death penalty, they can't re-offend and it costs the taxpayer less than housing them in the country clubs that have been constructed to house them.

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    1. The idea here Mr. A isn't how we treat these criminals, it is all about how you view yourself as a human being. The first question you should ask yourself is why you want to kill another human being. Cruel certainly describes those who do kill other human beings. These correctly convicted killers have certainly committed cruel acts. What you are advocating is to join them in their cruelty. Why would you want to do that? This has nothing to do with 'pity' for the convicted killers. And you should be aware of that.

      As for the victims, society can certainly do more for their benefit -- but that would require more government involvement that many advocate against today. As for prevention, there is certainly more that can be done, too. But again, that would require more government involvement that many advocate against today.
      For myself, I argue that more government involvement in our lives in relation to these issues is certainly better.

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  2. I can see why you're anonymous. Ever been inside one of those country clubs?

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  3. OK I agree that Anonymous' response is harsh but I must admit (even though I know it might not be humain) I completely agree. Our pets are put down humainly because generally they are dying of an illness or old age and yes I know there are some put down for aggresive behaviours) but the difference is - these are animals. People like him know what they are doing is disgusting and inhumain and people are supposed to have empathy and a moral compass. I agree that I would rather them dead than using hard working, law abiding (for the most part) citizen's money to keep them warm, fed, dental hygene, doctors and everything else they are entitled to but I agree it should be as pain free and quick as possible. I will ALWAYS believe in an eye for an eye.

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  4. Anon: I was thinking of the reports of overwhelming love on the 'other side', and the message: "You were learning then", that even a murder victim may experience, if all the NDE reports are valid. Even if the victim would forgive the murderer, the point would be not to allow the same act to occur to another person. I am not convinced that killing in return as a society is the answer, or is acceptable. Is it really a decision factor that it costs less to just incarcerate vs. execute after all the appeals?

    The most effective type of 'corrections' was the Quaker approach, to feed, clothe, keep warm, and treat kindly. Kahlil says it well when he suggests that he who stumbles is not at fault, but those who passed first, and didn't remove the stumbling stone. He also said, 'A leaf of the tree turns not yellow, without the knowledge of the whole tree'. We don't provide drug treatment, for instance to our poor, or protect or provide for sexually abused children, but we will put them in prison and bankrupt ourselves and their lives. The CIA even dropped drugs in certain neighborhoods, and in today's world, gave guns and go-ahead to various Cartels, and looked the other way. Profits are made by criminals in all stations of life.

    Frankly, I am tired of our 'leaders' being able to murder with 'surgical removals' and drones and secret prisons, corporate assassinations of unyielding countries, witnesses and 9/11 or Pearl Harbor moves to get us into profit-making wars. Serial killers? It's not as if 50% or so of murders from domestic violence is not disturbing, and calls for education of equality and conflict resolution in our early schools, but like food stamps and corporate welfare, we need to really get the focus right on our video cameras.

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