Another Lethal injection question

A story on NPR pointed out that many people executed by lethal injection may suffer, violating the “cruel and unusual punishment” forbidden by the US Constitution.
There is seemingly a problem with the combinations of chemicals used.
Why don’t executioners use whatever drug is used to knock patients out for surgery on prisoners, and simply cut their wrists?

They don’t cut wrists because executions are meant to look as bloodless and humane as possible. A lot of blood pouring out wouldn’t be good for the PR optics of capital punishment.

That’s why we don’t behead people, for instance.

As for the pain and suffering part - it’s time to just switch to nitrogen asphyxiation for all states. It can’t possibly be more painless than that.

You could drain their blood into opaque containers with opaque tubing.

Agreed. If we were only concerned about pain, death by firing squad would be one of the most humane ways to kill. People also care about the onlookers and the state of the body afterward.

A while back, someone on these boards suggested giving the prisoner an overdose of heroin. What problems would there be with that?

My guess would be potential problems with reliability. It’s supposed to be a “do it once and be done” sort of thing to avoid torturing the prisoner.

If you were executing a prisoner with an extremely high tolerance you might not get it right the first time.


I don’t understand why nitrogen asphyxiation is not used. It’s painless, clean and fast. That’s the way I would want to go.

Does one not have difficulty breathing? Knowing what is happening, would they not appear to be gasping for breath?

Back to heroin. Surely there is a lot of it confiscated from drug dealers. Once the guy passes out, give him enough to kill an elephant.

It’s my understanding that only carbon dioxide causes the difficult to breath part. Nitrogen doesn’t do that. Too much nitrogen and one simply falls asleep and dies.

No, the “need to breath” impulse is triggered by too much CO2, not by lack of oxygen. I know two people who have experienced lack of oxygen (one accidental CO poisoning, and the other intentional replacement of O2 with nitrogen as part of pilot training) and neither experienced anything unpleasant.

Well, the guy who poisoned himself had a bad headache the next day, but he said he felt really good and was enjoying his bath until someone dragged him out of it. (It was a heater in the bathroom that nearly killed him. Am alarm saved him, but he didn’t care that it was going off, someone else heard it and rescued him )

CO would be another good one except it’s dangerous to observers. Nitrogen is harmless as long as the observer’s space is ventilated.

Another advantage is that it needn’t involve a doctor, nor drugs whose manufacturers don’t want their reputation sullied.

I’ve thought it wasn’t done because it is too humane, and people want to bad guy to suffer.

I think you got it. The pain is the point. The suffering of others gives validity to too many people’s existence.

My favorite quote on humane capital punishment.

My preference would be no death penalty.

But if we have one, then the convict should be able to choose.

Nothing too fancy or extravagant, and they need to be dead within say a month, but beyond that, it’s up to them.

If they want to OD on drugs, let them. Give them all the cocaine they can shove up their nose until their heart bursts. Let them have all the heroin they can inject, with maybe just enough fentanyl to make sure that it becomes lethal. I don’t think that you can OD on weed or most psychedelics, but if they want to get high before something else comes along to finish them, then go ahead and let them.

If they want a painful death, then it’s their choice. If they want a humane death, then they can get that.

Whether we used nitrogen, CO, helium or hydrogen cyanide, I’m sure they’d be placed in a gas chamber first. Regardless of how safe they would (or wouldn’t) be for observers, I’m sure they still wouldn’t want them inhaling any of it. Further more, it’s a lot easier to flush it all out into the atmosphere if it’s all contained in an airtight space.

Regular air is nearly 80% nitrogen. If some of the nitrogen leaked from the gas chamber, it would be completely harmless. If CO leaked from a gas chamber it might hurt or kill someone else.

My understanding is that one of the problems with lethal injection is finding a good vein, so this would be an issue with a heroin injection. Some people on death row were users and had chewed up their veins pretty bad. On top of that, since doctors generally won’t perform the service, you have to get a non-doctor to find a difficult vein that won’t collapse while you’re trying to inject the poison.

Another vote here for nitrogen, in terms of safety, effectiveness, ease of application, and least likely to cause pain and suffering. I think that gas chambers are frowned upon because of the Nazis or something.

^^Good point about the veins. I’ve read that as well.