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Author Topic: States running out of drug used for lethal injections
rollainm
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Linky

So I'm not really interested in the typical death penalty debate these days (I will say for the record that I am firmly against it), but if that's how this thread goes, so be it. I do, however, find this increasingly common issue rather interesting, and I'm curious to know what others think about how this will affect the use of capital punishment in the US over the long term. Will these states find a permanent alternative that doesn't eventually run into the same supply issues, or will they have to fall back on more obviously gruesome methods? And more importantly, do you think this will have a significant effect on the country's public opinion/acceptance of the practice?

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scifibum
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I think there's certainly a line, albeit a fuzzy one, that divides an acceptable form of execution from an unacceptable form for most individuals who support the death penalty. For instance, most people probably wouldn't be okay with crucifixion, or gladiator-style spectacles. I wouldn't expect much of the support would dry up due to the difference between lethal injection and firing squad, though. I think most of the people who support the death penalty see it as a form of retributive justice, and the important thing is that the retribution occurs (and for some such supporters lethal injection might seem like getting off too easy).
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rollainm
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I agree that those with a firm stance on either side likely won't be swayed by the method of execution (within reason, of course). But, much like with the "Jesus isn't a..." sign, I wonder if the resulting conversation will not either influence those who previously had no developed opinion on the subject or encourage those with an opinion to become more vocal and active in supporting their stance. And I wonder how this might affect the public discourse and subsequently the practice.
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Heisenberg
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I think people who believe that lethal injections are too easy should take comfort in some of the horror stories about it.

Get the dosage or timing wrong, and the recipient gets to lay there, paralyzed but conscious, while they feel acid slowly burn it's way through their body. It's not a vanishingly rare occurence, either.

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Samprimary
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Texas will find anything they can get away with to keep killing people. I could even see them just using CO2 to keep it all running.

to quote nega-ian-malcolm, death finds a way.

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Heisenberg
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Inert gases such as nitrogen and helium work better then CO2. You don't get that "I'm out of breath, I'm suffocating" feeling. Just get groggy as the oxygen is replaced or used up in your blood, then you fall asleep, then you die.

I've always been confused as to why this isn't the preferred method to use. It's quick, guaranteed painless, and very hard to mess up.

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Lyrhawn
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If given a choice, I would absolutely choose firing squad. I'd actually probably prefer someone just double tap me in the back of the head while I'm asleep.

Nothing I've read about lethal injection suggests it's a particularly pleasant or merciful way to go.

But for what it's worth, I'm generally against the death penalty except under extreme circumstances.

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The Black Pearl
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Against the death penalty basically always.
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Elison R. Salazar
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
If given a choice, I would absolutely choose firing squad. I'd actually probably prefer someone just double tap me in the back of the head while I'm asleep.

Nothing I've read about lethal injection suggests it's a particularly pleasant or merciful way to go.

But for what it's worth, I'm generally against the death penalty except under extreme circumstances.

*High five*

So would I, I personally find it the most dignified way to go. Preferably with an option to sans the blindfold so you can look em' in the eye.

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scifibum
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Romanticizing it is weird.
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Stone_Wolf_
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Long drop hanging always seemed best to me, but now that y'all bring up, nitrogen sounds even better.

I think leaving the body whole is a big part of public acceptance...that is, no blood, no beheadings, etc.

I used to be pro death penalty, but I'd much rather see exile to a prison planet now a days.

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Rakeesh
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The notion of a dignified execution seems entirely arbitrary to me. That is, culturally I can understand it and even feel it but rationally I think it's only something we tell ourselves. Especially in the abstract.
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Lyrhawn
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I couldn't care less about looking dignified. I would just want to go fast and painlessly.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
The notion of a dignified execution seems entirely arbitrary to me. That is, culturally I can understand it and even feel it but rationally I think it's only something we tell ourselves. Especially in the abstract.

My favorite part is the two-button system designed to psychologically obscure and inure the executioners from the direct action that triggers the death of the condemned.
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The Black Pearl
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
The notion of a dignified execution seems entirely arbitrary to me. That is, culturally I can understand it and even feel it but rationally I think it's only something we tell ourselves. Especially in the abstract.

I 90% agree. But it's partially a show of respect to the friends and family of the person you're executing--at least, not to make some bombastic show of it.
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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
The notion of a dignified execution seems entirely arbitrary to me. That is, culturally I can understand it and even feel it but rationally I think it's only something we tell ourselves. Especially in the abstract.

People who are about to die would often tell you otherwise.

If you know you are going to die 24 hours from now, it's much nicer to go out in a dignified, painless way, instead of a degrading, painful way. It feels weird for me that someone would try to claim, that the method of death doesn't make any difference. Of course it makes all the difference.

The actual eye-blink moment of death isn't really hard at all. It's just lights out. You don't notice it when it hits you. It's all that happens before it, that is hard. Most people would prefer those moments to be as good as possible. And "good" means different things to different people.

I might choose a firing squad, and yes, it would be easier for me if I would have the option of looking them in the eye. I can always choose to close my eyes, if I want to.

Physically it might be easier, because you can build up your defiance and possible anger towards the people who are about kill you. You want to show them that you aren't afraid, that you still have your dignity. You're going out like a man.

Yes, you are playing a game inside your head. But the games we play inside our heads *are very real*, and directly affect how we experience our surroundings. And those games can give you adrenalin, among other hormones. And those hormones can *make your fear smaller*. It's nice to be less afraid, when you are about to die.

The fact is that some people get executed, when they are horrified of death. Some are a weeping mess. Some people show righteous defiance. Some people are filled with peaceful acceptance. And so on.

How you are mentally prepared, makes a great difference. There are many ways to die. I'd prefer to have one of the better deaths, instead of one of the poorer deaths.

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The Black Pearl
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I think we legislate it more on the basis of the judicial system keeping it's dignity, rather than the prisoner keeping theirs. And I think thats what Rakeesh is saying is arbitrary.

Or. It would be hard to legislate it on a prediction of what the prisoner is going to feel during the last five seconds of his life. So in a way any pretense to do that is a little arbitrary in and of itself. You're telling yourself that you're merciful, but you don't know that you're being merciful. You can't know. Unless you're only talking about pain.

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Rakeesh
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You're reading a lot more into it than I meant, Tuuka. I was only questioning the idea of labeling the death itself dignified-certainly not rejecting the notion that what happens prior doesn't matter, and not even remotely that it makes no difference.

ETA: Your unqualified assurances that the moment of death itself, the act of dying, are just over with no muss or no pain make me wonder if you're selling something.

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Rob Lister
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Inert gas asphyxiation seems like a no-brainer solution if you absolutely must. They could even re-purpose the old gas chambers.

The legal challenges would have to start all over, of course.

Since we're all stating our starting position: I'm generally against it but some crimes put me back on the fence. It isn't so much a principled position as it is a pragmatic one.

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Geraine
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Can we get something like Death Race or Gamer?

Have them compete and winner goes free. Yes, I know we are a more civilized society than back in the day. We can make it voluntary for those on Death Row. [Smile]

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dkw
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Pretty sure I don't want mass murderers going free just because they win a game.
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Hobbes
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quote:
Originally posted by dkw:
Pretty sure I don't want mass murderers going free just because they win a game.

What if the game is speed scrabble?

Hobbes [Smile]

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The Black Pearl
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Can we get something like Death Race or Gamer?

Have them compete and winner goes free. Yes, I know we are a more civilized society than back in the day. We can make it voluntary for those on Death Row. [Smile]

Death Race? Yes. Gamer? No.
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The Black Pearl
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
quote:
Originally posted by dkw:
Pretty sure I don't want mass murderers going free just because they win a game.

What if the game is speed scrabble?

Hobbes [Smile]

Hangman.
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Tuukka
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
You're reading a lot more into it than I meant, Tuuka. I was only questioning the idea of labeling the death itself dignified-certainly not rejecting the notion that what happens prior doesn't matter, and not even remotely that it makes no difference.

ETA: Your unqualified assurances that the moment of death itself, the act of dying, are just over with no muss or no pain make me wonder if you're selling something.

Before your post, "dignity" was only mentioned in the context of a *more dignified* death, with people preferring to choose one form of execution over another. And that opinion already got criticized as being romanticizing.

I assumed that you continued commenting on that, and if you re-read the few posts before your one, it's a natural assumption. I didn't realize that you were criticizing the overall premise of trying to execute convicts in a dignified manner, and ethically I agree that executions are a practice, that can't really ever be dignified.

Moreover, my post doesn't really make much sense, unless you follow the discussion starting from Elison's post.

When I talked about the moment of death, I mentioned the *eye-blink* long moment, when you pass from the world of living to the world of the dead. I know that death can be very long and gradual, and it can be even debated, when exactly a person dies. There are varied opinions about it even in the medical field.

For me death is the moment when my conscious mind permanently dies (Even if my body might live for years after that). And for me, anything that happens before that moment, is pre-death, not death itself.

Yes, I agree that it matters a lot how much pain there is pre-death.

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scifibum
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quote:
Before your post, "dignity" was only mentioned in the context of a *more dignified* death, with people preferring to choose one form of execution over another. And that opinion already got criticized as being romanticizing.
I want to expand on my criticism a bit. I do not want to criticize the idea that one execution may preserve the executed person's dignity more than another version. In fact, if we have to use the death penalty, I'm in favor of choosing the three options least likely to cause pain and suffering in the moments leading up to death and allowing the prisoner to pick one (but not requiring them to pick one).

I may have been wrong about Elison's hypothetical desire to "look 'em in the eye", but to me this suggest some kind of heroic defiance of the act of execution. I think presuming that the executed person would have either the right or desire to "look 'em in the eye" is an odd romantic notion that has little to do with the ugly, messy reality of killing someone for a crime. Who are they going to look at? This isn't some summary execution carried out by an evil despot. It's not a western where two rogues have battled it out and the one with the sheriff's badge got the best of the better looking one. The person you might look in the eye really ought to be someone who has no desire to do the deed, and no role in having sentenced you to it. That someone tasked with such a deed should be required to look you in the eye is just one more perversity on top of several in the notion of the death penalty.

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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by umberhulk:
quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:
Can we get something like Death Race or Gamer?

Have them compete and winner goes free. Yes, I know we are a more civilized society than back in the day. We can make it voluntary for those on Death Row. [Smile]

Death Race? Yes. Gamer? No.
Oh come on, Gamer wasn't THAT bad of a movie. Ok it was....But it had Gerard Butler in it, and I've something of a man crush on him.
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The Black Pearl
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Law Abiding Citizen is a bad movie, but Butler goes so nuts in it that it's worth watching once. The crap that he pulls off makes Burn Notice look like a documentary, though. It's up there with Salt for just how ridiculous it is.

(Salt is amazing)

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steven
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I've never understood why lethal injection wasn't just an overdose of regular anesthesia drugs.

My guess is that the people who chose the drug cocktail enjoy the idea that some of the executed end up in a lot of pain while dying.

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
I've never understood why lethal injection wasn't just an overdose of regular anesthesia drugs.

My guess is that the people who chose the drug cocktail enjoy the idea that some of the executed end up in a lot of pain while dying.

What do you find wrong with the currently used drugs?

The people choosing the drugs are medical doctors, tasked with producing a cheap, effective, and painless way to execute criminals. Your baseless assertion that they have sadistic motives behind their selection of drugs is way off base.

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Lyrhawn
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Except it's NOT painless. It's been shown in some cases to be painful and even downright gruesome.
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steven
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Well, capax, got any comebacks?
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Elison R. Salazar
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Oh, easily I think, the go-to stance is that there isn't justice if there isn't pain in execution. I literally saw someone say that during a documentary regarding finding humane executions, pro-death penalty people also tend to mainstream accept the chance of pain as part of the package as to what constitutes "justice".

Because murdering a man in retribution for his crimes (which are disproportionately going to be black because the justice system is racist) isn't justice enough if it isn't also painful because even people you meet face to face in real life are internet tough guys.

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Stone_Wolf_
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Murder is the wrong word...execute is more accurate.

And helium is just THE way to do it, hands down.

Or not at all...that works even better.

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Elison R. Salazar
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No, there's better as the documentary showed, a way to asphyxiate the inmate in such a way that it gives them a high before unconsciousness and then death. I forget the combination of drugs but its been tested on pigs and they don't notice something is wrong until they collapse dead.
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Stone_Wolf_
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That is exactly how helium asphixiation works...minus the high...which is fine with me.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
Originally posted by capaxinfiniti:
quote:
Originally posted by steven:
I've never understood why lethal injection wasn't just an overdose of regular anesthesia drugs.

My guess is that the people who chose the drug cocktail enjoy the idea that some of the executed end up in a lot of pain while dying.

What do you find wrong with the currently used drugs?

The people choosing the drugs are medical doctors, tasked with producing a cheap, effective, and painless way to execute criminals. Your baseless assertion that they have sadistic motives behind their selection of drugs is way off base.

This would be more compelling if it wasn't the case that quite a lot of doctors hadn't pointed out it wasn't a reliable or painless as advertised.
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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
Originally posted by capaxinfiniti:
quote:
Originally posted by steven:
I've never understood why lethal injection wasn't just an overdose of regular anesthesia drugs.

My guess is that the people who chose the drug cocktail enjoy the idea that some of the executed end up in a lot of pain while dying.

What do you find wrong with the currently used drugs?

The people choosing the drugs are medical doctors, tasked with producing a cheap, effective, and painless way to execute criminals. Your baseless assertion that they have sadistic motives behind their selection of drugs is way off base.

This would be more compelling if it wasn't the case that quite a lot of doctors hadn't pointed out it wasn't a reliable or painless as advertised.
Quite a lot of doctors? You'll have to point me in the direction of these opinions. It's been show over and over that this method is both reliable and painless when administered correctly.

The preferred drugs - typically sodium thiopentol, pentobarbital, and pancuronium bromide; all highly potent anesthetics and/or muscle relaxants - are very effective. A final drug, usually used to speed the process, is potassium chloride. This drug is the culprit in most painful executions but isn't necessarily required to bring about death, as a large enough dose of any single drug included in the cocktail could kill the person.

The drugs chosen reflect the goal that the execution be both cheap and effective. That's the purpose behind the multi-drug cocktail. Efforts could be made to standardize the practice and ensure access to the best chemicals. This would alleviate the biggest cause of pain during lethal injection: human error. One major obstacle - and a point which speaks to the OP - is that the bans on certain drugs, as well as the real and artificial "shortages," often arise from politically and morally motivated agendas, i.e., "We can't stop capital punishment so we will go after the supply of lethal injection drugs." Do away with that nonsense and lethal injection would be more reliable and humane than it already is.

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Elison R. Salazar
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What.

"If only the countries who hate the death penalty would let us murder more people, than we could murder more people with less pain!"

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Elison R. Salazar:
What.

"If only the countries who hate the death penalty would let us murder more people, than we could murder more people with less pain!"

I didn't say anything about murder. Once again you comment doesn't make sense. Is it that your reading comprehension is lacking? Or perhaps you haven't acquired the communication skills necessary to articulate a clear opinion. Maybe your opinion is so muddled it comes out as garbled nonsense. My guess is all of the above.
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Elison R. Salazar
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Sorry can't hear your juvenile warbling due to the fact I'm in a country that doesn't believe that state sponsored murder constitutes justice.

I'm sure if I did in fact misconstrue your post you would've been patient and taken steps to re-explain your position in a more clear fashion.

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Heisenberg
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Beating a dead horse here, but there have been numerous documented cases of very painful lethal injections.

Unless your goal is pain, and having the potential for pain is important in your executions, then the answer is helium or nitrogen.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_bag

You use one of those, and there is zero risk of suffering as opposed to low risk. It would be cheaper, too, which apparently is a concern now?

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Heisenberg
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Oh, and Elison, murder is unlawful killing.

If the state is sponsoring it, and it is backed up by said state's laws, then by definition it's not murder.

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Heisenberg:
Beating a dead horse here, but there have been numerous documented cases of very painful lethal injections.

I haven't seen anyone disagree with you on that point. But done correctly, lethal injection shouldn't and doesn't cause pain.

quote:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_bag

You use one of those, and there is zero risk of suffering as opposed to low risk. It would be cheaper, too, which apparently is a concern now?

Asphyxiation is the best alternative yet proposed. I could get behind that 100 percent. It's effective and painless, and wouldn't require the technical skills inherent to lethal injection. Cost should always be a concern when it's taxpayers footing the bill but I don't see this method costing more than currently used and accepted methods of execution.
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Rakeesh
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Capax,

I see, so your argument is that 'when the complicated, painstaking method is done perfectly and with exactly the right materials, there's no problem.'

Well, sure. The problem though is that all this time those things were supposed to be the standard and as it turns out, they're not. One of the reasons is that so many of the people involved aren't medical personnel, or not very well trained because, again, hard to get doctors lined up for it (look it up yourself, you were the one who brought up its ease and safety, it'll take about 20s on wiki).

And cost? Seriously? We've already spent so much money getting them to the executioner's block, but the *method* is where we should pinch pennies? You're talking about the American prison system, already enormously bloated and mismanaged, but hey, let's save a buck at the cost of some hideous deaths.

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Rakeesh
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Just as a sign of what I mean: capax, which American groups of doctors and medical professionals endorses lethal injection and permits its members to participate?
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Wingracer
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quote:
Originally posted by Heisenberg:
Oh, and Elison, murder is unlawful killing.

If the state is sponsoring it, and it is backed up by said state's laws, then by definition it's not murder.

I also disagree with his use of the word murder but I don't care for your reasoning. By your reasoning, the holocaust wasn't murder. In fact, most genocides aren't murder by your definition. I guess Hitler and Pol Pot were just legal judges?
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Heisenberg
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Well, no, Wingracer, believe it or not I wasn't looking to excuse Hitler's crimes with my statement there.

For one thing, (and correct me if I'm wrong here, because I'm not entirely sure) I don't believe that there were laws passed allowing Gypsys, homosexuals, political dissidents, and Jews to be killed outright. The Nazis just went ahead and did it. Murder is not just killing that goes against the state's wishes, but that which is specifically unlawful.

If I am wrong, then no, by the definition of murder those crimes committed were not murder. Unless, of course, you're the type that likes to believe in "god's law". In that case, I suppose you could call it murder. In this case, I was assuming that Elison was not a dedicated theist, and that he was using an emotionally charged word in an incorrect manner in order to score a cheap rhetorical point.

And this is all not to say that such killings are not bad, or negative. I can look on the killing of a person, one that is completely legal and/or sponsored by the powers of the state (an execution where the evidence convicting was shaky, for example, or the victims of the holocaust) and be disgusted by and completely against those actions.
My dislike for them wouldn't make them murder, however.

Words mean things.

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Wingracer
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I believe you. I know that wasn't what you meant but I can't help feeling a bit wrong about the statement that nothing is murder as long as the state supports it. Yes, you are correct that by definition, it would not be murder within that state but laws vary greatly. One nations execution could be another's murder.

Take WWII for example. At the end, the allies tried and convicted many people for war crimes. Many of these people were simply following orders they believed to be lawful, yet were executed as murderers anyway. What if the Japanese had won? Would the pilots that shot down Yamamoto and the officers that ordered it have been tried, convicted and executed as murderers? I suspect they would have been, yet we hail them as heroes.

Of course this opens up a whole new can of worms such as drone strikes killing U.S. citizens and foreign nationals without trial.

Ultimately, I do not disagree with you in the specific case being discussed in this thread but such a blanket statement as yours bothers me greatly. There is just too much leeway there for governments to do bad things.

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Heisenberg
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quote:
Originally posted by Wingracer:
I believe you. I know that wasn't what you meant but I can't help feeling a bit wrong about the statement that nothing is murder as long as the state supports it. Yes, you are correct that by definition, it would not be murder within that state but laws vary greatly. One nations execution could be another's murder.

Take WWII for example. At the end, the allies tried and convicted many people for war crimes. Many of these people were simply following orders they believed to be lawful, yet were executed as murderers anyway. What if the Japanese had won? Would the pilots that shot down Yamamoto and the officers that ordered it have been tried, convicted and executed as murderers? I suspect they would have been, yet we hail them as heroes.

Of course this opens up a whole new can of worms such as drone strikes killing U.S. citizens and foreign nationals without trial.

Ultimately, I do not disagree with you in the specific case being discussed in this thread but such a blanket statement as yours bothers me greatly. There is just too much leeway there for governments to do bad things.

Well, yes, we do hail them as heroes. But that's because we're hypocrites. Allied commanders would have been executed for the firebombings of Dresden and Tokyo, at the very least.

There were people on both sides who did horrific things and deserved death. The Japanese and Germans did more bad things then us, no doubt, but our hands weren't clean and the only reason there weren't war crime trials for our side is because we won.

It's that simple.

Look, I get the spirit of what you're saying regarding the word murder, but it really does have a specific definition. The unlawful killing of a human being.

Executions are not legal in most (all?) of Europe. It would be illegal for a prison to deliberately kill an inmate without sufficient provocation - i.e., he's threatening the life of another. It would be murder.

Yet, in many states in this country, it is not illegal. The laws actually specifically outline when it is legal for the state to kill someone, and in which ways it is legal to do so. Unless European legislation were to somehow gain binding force in the United States, these executions are not murder because those countries do not have jurisdiction here. The only internally coherent exception, as noted, is when you get a Bible thumper going on about Yahweh's law.

All that being said, I just want to make it clear; I'm pretty much entirely against the death penalty, unless the inmate requests it. And that's only because I don't really have a problem with the idea of accepting suicide.

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