Supreme Court Reviews Lethal Injection Procedure

Supreme Court Reviews Lethal Injection Procedure January 7, 2008

How the lethal injection drugs work: (ABC News)

This injection contains a triple overdose of anesthesia drugs: sodium thiopental, which induces unconsciousness; pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the breathing muscles; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.

The drugs are usually mixed and injected by prison guards with no medical training. Furthermore, there can also be problems inserting the needle into the patient’s vein. For an execution, the person inserting the IV into the prisoner often has little training or experience. This part of the procedure is sometimes made more difficult by the fact that many death row inmates have scarred, tortuous veins from previous drug abuse.

Recent Cases Suggest Cruel and Unusual Punishment

In Diaz’s case, the needles in both arms missed their targets. As a result, not only did he suffer a slow and agonizing death because the drugs were not delivered into his veins, but he was also chemically burned by the highly concentrated drugs flowing under his skin. This was illustrated by 11-and-12-inch chemical burns on his arms revealed during his autopsy.

American countries that have not abolished the death penalty yet:

Antigua y Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominique, Jamaica, Guatemala, Guyana, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago.


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  • I am all for abolishing the DP as a policy matter, but this is a constitutional question, and, as such, the issue should be evaluated soley for the purpose of determining whether LI amounts to a “cruel and unusual punishment” per the original meaning of the Constitution.

  • should be evaluated soley for the purpose of determining whether LI amounts to a “cruel and unusual punishment” per the original meaning of the Constitution.

    You’re right, Alexham.

    I just can’t help but finding the discussion of how to kill a human being “in a more humane way” rather disgusting, so I added how few countries in the Americas actually practice the death penalty.

  • I completely understand. That’s why I favor a Human Life Amendment to the Constitution that bans abortion, ESCR, cloning, euthanasia, and the DP.

  • Just to clarify for those of us who are a bit slow on the uptake today…
    ESCR= Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    peace to all

  • I’ve often wondered if lethal injection isn’t objectively more cruel than (say) beheading. It seems to me that it is literally impossible for us to know, because none of us have died that way and can report on the experience.

    I had a very bizarre experience under nitrous oxide at the dentist many years ago. I believe to this day that they turned the concentration up too high. The effect on me was to take what was probably twenty minutes or so of time and stretch it to feel like days.

    Suppose that this is what happens to the condemned during lethal injection: before he in fact becomes unconscious – and consciousness is not something we can measure – he experiences a time stretch like this. During that time stretch the other chemical agent stops his ability to breath. Subjectively he spends several days suffocating to death.

    It reminds me of the operations which were performed on pre-verbal babies using curare in the earlier part of the twentieth century, IIRC. Everyone assumed the babies didn’t feel anything, because they would become perfectly passive and externally relaxed during the procedures. But as we now know, curare doesn’t deaden pain at all, it just paralyzes the victim and makes him unable to respond to the pain. But he feels every bit of it as it happens.