Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another Blow to Legal Lynching

Another victory in the fight against the death penalty! Yesterday, Tennessee Federal judge Aleta Trauger ruled that the state's method of executing its prisoners, lethal injection, constituted cruel and unusual punishment because the victims were not properly anesthetized. This makes Tennessee the 11th state to block or halt executions based on the nature of lethal injections.

As some of you may remember, last year a California judge ruled that misshandled injections constituted cruel and unusual punishment. According to the judge, "implementation of lethal injection is broken [but] it can be fixed". Following this ruling, in December of 2006 Florida Governor Jeb Bush was forced to halt further lethal injections after the horrific execution of Angel Diaz.

In the Florida case, this is what witnesses had to say about the 'botched' execution

Witnesses said his death took more than twice the usual time - 34 minutes rather than the usual 15.

He needed a second dose of the lethal chemicals as the needles were injected straight through his veins and into the flesh of his arms.

Following the autopsy, the medical examiner concluded the injections had been wrongly administered.

He was found to have large chemical burns on both arms and his lawyer reported that the 55-year-old continued to move and mouth words more than 20 minutes after the initial dose.

Surely, proponents of lethal injection feel that this appalling treatment of human beings can be corrected if the injection is given properly. However, according to a recently published study in the Public Library of Science, lethal injection is NOT humane and can never be.

Execution by lethal injection, even if it uses tools of intensive care such as intravenous tubing and beeping heart monitors, has the same relationship to medicine that an executioner's axe has to surgery.

According to the study, despite the redundancy of the chemicals administered (each is administered in a lethal dose), no government execution is humane nor can it be.
It is not our intention to encourage further research to “improve” lethal injection protocols. As editors of a medical journal, we must ensure that research is ethical, and there is no ethical way to establish the humaneness of procedures for killing people who do not wish to die. Human research to further the ends of governments at the expense of individual lives is an obvious violation of the Declaration of Helsinki, which was conceived largely in response to the atrocities of Nazi “medicine” in order to articulate an international standard for ethical human experimentation. Whatever local law might say in a given place and time, no ethical researcher would propose a study to establish such procedures, no ethical reviewers would approve it, and no ethical journal would publish it. The acceptability of lethal injection under the US Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban on inhumane punishment has never been established; the data presented by Koniaris and colleagues adds to the evidence that lethal injection is simply the latest in a long line of execution methods that have been found to be inhumane. It is time for the US to join the majority of countries worldwide in recognizing that there is no humane way of forcibly killing someone.

Like motyat might say: death penalty apologists, your argument is a nonstarter, and they proved it with science. YAHTZEE.