Lethal injection method flawed as Execution Method: New Study
Probably Violates Constitutional Ban on Cruel and Unusual Punishment
The AP reported today that:
The drugs used to execute prisoners in the United States sometimes fail to work as planned, causing slow and painful deaths that probably violate constitutional bans on cruel and unusual punishment, a new medical review of dozens of executions concludes.
Even when administered properly, the three-drug lethal injection method appears to have caused some inmates to suffocate while they were conscious and unable to move, instead of having their hearts stopped while they were sedated, scientists said in a report published Monday by the online journal PLoS Medicine.
No scientific groups have ever validated that lethal injection is humane, the authors write. Medical ethics bar doctors and other health professionals from taking part in executions.
The study concluded that the typical "one-size-fits-all" doses of anesthetic do not take into account an inmate's weight and other key factors. Some inmates got too little, and in some cases, the anesthetic wore off before the execution was complete, the authors found.
"You wouldn't be able to use this protocol to kill a pig at the University of Miami" without more proof that it worked as intended, said Teresa Zimmers, a biologist there who led the study.
The journal's editors call for abolishing the death penalty, writing: "There is no humane way of forcibly killing someone."
Lethal injection has been adopted by 37 states as a cheaper and more humane alternative to electrocution, gas chambers and other execution methods.
But 11 states have suspended its use after opponents alleged it is ineffective and cruel. The issue came to a head last year in California, when a federal judge ordered that doctors assist in killing Michael Morales, convicted of raping and murdering a teenage girl. Doctors refused, and legal arguments continue in the case.
In 2005 alone, at least 2,148 people were killed by lethal injection in 22 countries, especially China, where fleets of mobile execution vans are used, the editors write, citing Amnesty International figures. Of the 53 executions in the United States in 2006, all but one were by lethal injection.
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