Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Death Penalty as a Form of Torture

This may not be entirely news to some of us but a bit of a shocker to others:

The cocktail of lethal injections used to administer the death penalty in California and North Carolina may leave inmates conscious but unable to move as they are killed by painful 'chemical asphyxiation,' according to a new medical study reported Tuesday.

The study, which appeared in the online edition of PLoS Medicine - a San Francisco-based medical journal - bolsters earlier research that questioned whether the use of three chemicals to administer the death penalty was a form of 'cruel and unusual punishment' banned by the US constitution.

[snip]

As a consequence, during the course of the execution, the condemned man or woman may experience severe pain when the second dose of chemicals - potassium chloride - is infused to stop the heart. 'It would cause a burning sensation that would be extremely painful,' Koniaris said.

Koniaris added that data suggested that inmates died two to nine minutes after potassium chloride was administered, which raises the prospect that the death may ultimately come from administration of the third chemical, pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the lungs.

'In such cases, death by suffocation would occur in a paralyzed inmate fully aware of the progressive suffocation and the potassium-induced sensation of burning,' he said.

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