Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Lethal Weapon 12: This Time It's For Real
How many of those things were there again? Five? Six? Not the point.

Today, a story emerged claiming what many scientists have believed for quite some time now - that there is a flaw in the lethal injection method employed when carrying out a death penalty sentence. After reading the article, I hearkened back to about a year or so ago when I heard a similar story while working for Chief Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan (now retired) at the Circuit Court for Baltimore City in Maryland. It was a Friday and we had a convict whose execution was scheduled for midnight, Monday. Talk about procrastination...

The judge declined the appeal, although to be fair, the attorneys had already sung the same song for the State Supreme Court and they weren't having any of it either. And though their motivations may have been more selfish than humanitarian, they did bring up some interesting points. Up until that day, I had little knowledge of the process of lethal injection. I just thought they stuck a needle in someone and that was it. It turns out it's a bit more involved that that. There are actually THREE drugs involved (at least in most states) each of which, individually, can kill. Though I guess they're hoping that if they give you three, they'll get at least one. I'd take that bet.

There's Thiopental, an anesthetic; Pancuronium Bromide, which blocks nerves and paralyzes the muscle; and Potassium Chloride, a drug used to stop the heart. However, the drugs are not pain-free. Sedation is supposed to prevent the sensation of pain from these drugs, but there have been reports of sedation wearing off or being ineffective. Apparently, state governments have chosen to take the "one-size-fits-all" approach, not so good when the inmates have been pumping iron in the yard or, for that matter, are just plain heavy.

Why doesn't a doctor just monitor the injections - instead of the State - to ensure that everything goes properly? Well, I'm glad you asked. Technically, it's unethical. It's that whole Hippocratic "do no harm" thing. Geez, these doctors and their oaths. Taking everything so LITERALLY. One time, a federal judge in California tried to order that doctors assist in a lethal injection. The doctors said no, and the case is still ongoing.

Which brings us back to why the lawyers brought up this last-minute case in hopes of stalling the process. With the right judge, sometimes it DOES work. Somehow, it seems bittersweet getting out on a technicality. But I guess beggars can't be choosers, eh?
posted by Rachel @ 5:07 PM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
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