Lethal injection was once a go-to method for the humane execution of prisoners, dating to its first use in the US back in 1982.
But recent fallouts with image-conscious drug suppliers have left prisons in a dilemma.
Do they fork over money to cover the 1,500% increase in drug costs over the last four years? Or do they look for other drugs that do the same job, only better? Maybe they just go old-school and revive the firing squad.
While they find those answers, suffering continues.
A 2005 study of several states’ execution policies revealed errors in how the popular anesthetic thiopental was getting administered.
Unlike hospital personnel, the executioners weren’t trained to give anesthesia. The drugs were also delivered remotely without any monitoring; data wasn’t recorded; and nobody had a second pair of eyes on the procedure to make sure it was safe.
Even the dosages were wrong.
“Toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina showed that post-mortem concentrations of thiopental in the blood were lower than that required for surgery in 43 of 49 executed inmates,” the authors wrote.
This meant prisoners weren’t always fully unconscious by the time the killing drug hit.
Follow-up research has confirmed lethal injection is probably one of the least safe methods of capital punishment. In 2007, an analysis of lethal injection cases found one of the drugs of choice, potassium chloride, “does not reliably induce cardiac arrest” as it’s intended.
A separate study questioned the entire premise of lethal injection — whether the combination of poor preparation, shoddy oversight, and lack of training meant the method in its current form was beyond repair.
That may be the case. In response to the bevy of failed injections around the country, California has proposed legislation that would distill the process from involving many drugs to using just one.
But even that has people bristling.
“California hasn’t carried out an execution in almost 10 years at this point,” Ana Zamora of the ACLU of Northern California told “The Los Angeles Times,” add that “any effort to change the execution protocol is doomed to fail and guaranteed to bring more legal challenges, more delays, and cost more money.”
And so the search for humanity in death marches on.
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