Saturday, February 11, 2017

There is no "humane execution"

     Under threat of restoration of the death penalty in the Philippines a consideration of the horror of  executions is again being raised. In Thailand we have not even reached the stage of option, but it provides us with opportunity to reflect on our practice. The following paragraphs are an introduction to a recent article in "Philippine Enquirer". Lethal injection is the supposed humane choice of method of execution in Thailand. So far six persons have been so executed.

"According to a 2002 article in the Journal of Forensic Science, it takes an average of 8.4 minutes for a lethal injection protocol to achieve the desired end. The most common one involves the insertion of intravenous lines and the administration three drugs. These are sodium thiopental, which depresses the central nervous system in 30 seconds, introducing a degree of unconsciousness that makes pain undetectable; pancuronium bromide, a relaxant which takes 30-45 seconds to induce paralysis and respiratory arrest; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart in around 30 seconds. Given procedural delays, errors in IV line insertion, and delays in pronouncing death, the whole process takes around 10 minutes.
 It all sounds simple and painless, but these quick facts are only the tip of an iceberg of debates - decades long arguments on the effectivity and ultimate humaneness of the protocol. There are horror stories of failed IV line insertions with incorrect administration of thiopental, of autopsies revealing inadequate blood levels of one or more of the said drugs, of convicts struggling to get up long after the injections. Some have noted that the first drug may wear off quickly, which may lead to an agonizing death with inmates unable to express pain because they have been rendered paralyzed. It is easy to suppose that lethal injection, as we know it, creates the appearance of a painless quiet death more than actually giving it. hence the controversy surrounding the protocols of  lethal injection in the United States."

Kay Riveria, "Cruel and unusual", Philippine Daily Enquirer, 10 Feb 2017

No comments: