Bring Back the Guillotine?


Legal challenges to lethal injection procedures are threatening to delay executions until states can line up enough physicians who are willing to supervise the process. The central question is whether prison personnel sometimes botch the three-chemical protocol that is used by almost every state (Nebraska still uses electrocution), failing to properly administer enough of the fast-acting barbiturate sodium thiopental to knock out the condemned man before he gets the pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes his muscles (including those used in breathing, causing suffocation), and the potassium chloride, which stops his heart and would cause intense pain in a conscious person. The problem is that the American Medical Association's code of ethics prohibits doctors from prescribing these drugs, injecting them, or even pronouncing death afterward. So states where federal judges have raised questions about possible lethal injection laxness (including California and North Carolina) may have trouble getting adequate medical supervision.

A I've mentioned before, the constant striving for a sanitized, painless, "humane" way of killing people seems contrary to the punitive intent of execution. But I guess truth in advertising requires that lethal injection actually work the way it's supposed to, insteading of being an accidental form of torture. Medical supervision aside, the current method seems needlessly complicated. Why not just stop with the barbiturate (in an adequately ramped-up dose)? If it's good enough for terminal patients in Oregon, it ought to be good enough for murderers.