Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Another botched execution
Yesterday, the Ohio Department of Corrections attempted to execute Joseph Clark. They eventually succeeded in killing him, but only after trying for 90 minutes.
Spokeswoman Andrea Dean said the execution was delayed about 90 minutes because technicians had trouble initially finding a site in Clark's arm for the intravenous line carrying the chemicals.

Then shortly after the poisons were supposed to have been pumping into his body, she said, he sat up saying, "It's not working. It's not working."

Officials determined that a vein had collapsed. Curtains were closed to block witnesses' view until technicians found a vein in his other arm. They were then parted to reveal him dying, witnesses said.

Most states that execute use the lethal injection method because it has the appearance of being more humane than the old methods of hanging, firing squad, gas chamber, and electric chair. It is not more humane, but it is less messy, and that's what allows them to keep up the all important appearance of humaneness.

For lethal injection, the prisoner is set up with an IV and three chemicals are pumped into them in sequence. The first chemical is supposed to knock the prisoner unconscious. This is the first key to the illusion of humaneness: if the prisoner is asleep, we think they won't feel anything. The death is supposed to be like freezing to death: the victim grows tired and numb, falls asleep, and never wakes up. More importantly for the illusion, an unconscious victim doesn't make noise or show pain the way a conscious one would. In the execution of Joseph Clark this part of the humane execution failed.

The second chemical induces paralysis in all the muscles of the body except the heart. If nothing else is done, the prisoner will slowly and painfully suffocate when their chest muscles stop working. If the prisoner is not completely asleep, they feel that pain. The main purpose of paralysis is to keep the condemned from flopping around and upsetting the witnesses. Many states have laws against using these drugs to kill unwanted animals, but we still use them to kill unwanted humans.

The third chemical induces a heart attack. Heart attacks can be very painful, but they are not always fatal. Once again, if the prisoner is not completely asleep, they feel that pain. And, if the first heart attack isn't fatal, they lie there suffocating while the medical technician prepares a second heart attack.

There simply is no humane or civilized way to kill people. As long as we continue to kill, we will not be a humane or civilized society.

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