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Problems With Death
Crime is a large part of American society. Everyday there are some new stories about a killing or robberies. The news spends an hour at night taking about who was caught, convicted, or suspected of a crime. Everyone who is convicted of a crime is punished in a way that seems suitable for the crime they committed. Robbers and rapists spend years in jail and murders spend life, some are even put to death. The thought process behind the death penalty is a life for a life. Why should this person get to live a full and happy life after killing others? Recently, new information has been released about the main process used when killing convicted murders. Research shows that the patients are most likely in immense amount of pain due to the drugs administered.
In the United States, a total of 1,178 executions have taken place since 1976 (Death Penalty Information Center). The primary capital punishment method is lethal injection. Lethal injection uses a combination of different drugs in order to kill the prisoner humanely. Most states use the same three-drug combination in order to kill. Sodium penthol, which is an anesthetic, is the first to be injected. Next come the pancuronjum bromide which causes the patient to become paralyzed. Lastly, potassium chloride is injected which causes the heart to stop (Death Penalty Information Center).
Although lethal injection has been decided as the most humane way to execute, there is still a lot of controversy on whether or not the procedure may result in unnecessary and severe pain it is a violation the law that bans cruel and unusual punishment. Some doctors seem to believe that there is an inadequate amount anesthesia for the amount of pain inflicted on the prisoner. Toxicology reports from four diverse states showed that after death, the amount of anesthesia in the blood were lower than what is required for surgery in 88% of those who were tested on. The tests also showed that in 20% of the patients, the inmate had concentration that is consistent with awareness (Guidry).
It can also be argued that the people, who provide the drugs to the patient, are uneducated when it comes to administering the anesthesia as well as the other drugs (Guidry). There have been some medical logs that question on whether or not the convict was awake during the time that the lethal drugs were administered. It is feared that the people are unable to get the needle into the right spot, seeing as it is difficult to gain IV access and they are not usually watching the convict carefully (Guidry).
Since 2006 there have been three botched lethal injections in Ohio. In all three cases it took over a half an hour to insert an intravenous line (Los Angeles Times). After being stuck with a needle repeatedly in already sore tissue made the attempts very painful. In the most recently botched case it was reported that at one point the needle hit the bone of the convict (Los Angeles Times). In California all executions were suspended for three years because they think that the drug used to paralyze may cause the patient to suffocate. Even though some believe that it’s okay to cause these prisoners pain because of the hideous crimes they have participated in, that is not the intent of the state. The state isn’t putting these convicts to death in order to give the victim’s family and friends’ justification; they do it to punish the convict for their crimes. This is precisely the reason the country refuses to allow cruel and unusual punishment. Executions that are botched are cruel to the prisoner and every state has them.
Recently courts have begun to hear more and more cases dealing with lethal injection and its flaws. The most current case took place in Ohio where the inmates living on death row sought to change how the state gears the lethal injection procedure. It was decided that Ohio should alter the process. It was decided that instead of the cocktail of drugs administered, the patient would only get potassium chloride, the drug that stops the heart. It was also stated that if the IV site can’t be maintained then there should be an alternative procedure, which includes injecting the prisoner with two chemicals, midazolam and hydromorphone, into the muscles. Lastly, it was stated that the prisoner has the right to the presences of a counsel during the execution process (LethalInjectuion.org). Although I believe that this is a start to changing how the process of lethal injection works, I do not believe that this is the answer to the problem. I say this because the patient is still receiving the drug that is thought to cause an enormous amount of pain.
Lethal injection is full of questions with no immediate answers. Is the convict really in pain while being injected? There is no way to answer this question, because those who are put through the experience are lifeless afterward. It is going to be a long process before we can know for sure if the procedure is causing a massive amount of hurting. I think the best way to solve this problem is to do more research on the process of lethal injection. The government should postpone all premeditated homicides until further information can be supplied. It’s not right for the convicts to suffer more than necessary before being put to death. To fund the research for lethal injection the government could raise taxes. This little extra money from each American would be plenty of money to use for research.
I think that the state of Ohio is doing a great job at starting the process of change when it comes to lethal injection. By administering only one drug instead of all three may be the answer that people have been looking for. However, that is not the answer to the problem because this still causes the prisoner pain. The only way to fix the problems of lethal injections is to take the time to study the effects of the drugs and figure out a way to make them less painful.
Death Penalty Information Center “Facts about the Death Penalty” 1 November 20009
Death Penalty Information Center, website
Guidry Orin “Observations Regarding Lethal Injection” 30 June 2006
American Society of Anesthesiologists, website
LethalInjectuion.org “State of Ohio to Switch to One Drug Lethal Injection Protocol”
13 November 2009, website
Los Angeles Times “Ohio’s Botched Executions” 14 October 2009
Los Angeles Times, website