Jacob Sullum on the Medicalization of the Death Penalty



Sixteen minutes into last week's botched lethal injection at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the warden closed the blinds on the windows to the execution chamber and turned off the sound so that witnesses could not see Clayton Lockett writhe or hear him moan. The procedure, designed to resemble a medical treatment—albeit one with an involuntary patient and a very low probability of recovery—had begun to look uncomfortably like the cold-blooded killing of a helpless person. Jacob Sullum argues that the eagerness of death penalty advocates to address the shortcomings revealed by Lockett's drawn-out demise suggests that majority support for capital punishment depends on sanitizing the practice to conceal its true nature.