The guillotine: Not a bad way to go?

This. The U.S. is effectively the only country in the Western Hemisphere still using capital punishment; while most other countries in the hemisphere still have it on the books, the last non-U.S. execution in the hemisphere was in Saint Kitts and Nevis in 2008. (And, of course, even in the U.S., while 31 states have the death penalty on the books, most executions are in a handful of southern states.)

As shown in this Wikipedia article, most of the countries which still employ capital punishment are in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

If modern society wanted dignity to the process, it’d use nitrogen gas asphyxiation. Painless, mess free, and the most humane. But society doesn’t want that. Never has. Society wants spectacle. Society wants the guilty to suffer. Makes people feel better about themselves.

I always was fond of the method voiced by Chief Gillespie in the episode of In the Heat of the Night where he witnessed an execution.

The massive and immediate loss of blood pressure would have to produce immediate unconsciousness. Death would have to follow in very short order.

I think I would rather have my still-beating heart ripped from my chest by a priest of the Temple of Doom. Probably a more painful way to go, but people would Never stop repeating the story.

Not asking for myself (or anyone else), but why nitrogen? And not, say, helium?

Helium is expensive and rare. And, I believe, has intoxicating effects in addition to the high pitched voice. Those things would be disturbing to observers even if the victim didn’t mind.

Nitrogen is just regular air minus the oxygen. No buildup of CO2 in the lungs, so no panic, asphyxiation or drowning feeling. Smells and breathes just like air, only you go to sleep and never wake up. The victim never knows, doesn’t scream and makes no mess. Also, it’s both abundant and cheap.

Go on………

Note that Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin did not invent the execution machine that bears his name.
A similar device known as the Halifax Gibbet had been in use in that Yorkshire town since 1286 and continued until 1650. It was noticed by a Scotsman, James Douglas Earl of Morton, who had one built in Edinburgh in 1556, which became known as the Maiden and remained in use until 1710.
There is a credible recording of an execution by a similar machine in Milan in 1702, and there are paintings of a guillotine like machine used in Nuremberg in the mid 1500’s.

The Nazis found it very efficient. "Between 1943 and 1945, the People’s Courts sentenced around 7,000 people to death. In the first few months of 1945, some 800 people were executed, over 400 of them German citizens. Nazi executioners could guillotine a prisoner every three minutes if required, which it often was. It has been claimed that it took just 90 minutes to guillotine 75 prisoners at Breslau Prison. The Nazis created a number of Execution Centers to which persons were brought who had been sentenced in the areas surrounding the Centers. "

Nitrogen Narcosis is a thing. Also, death is messy anyway: I think you get convulsions with oxygen depletion, and incontinence at death.

The convulsions may be the reason C02 is included in the mix for humane killing of animals. I don’t know what the reason is, but (1) we’ve had some statements from people involved with research animals here, and (2) there was a problem for those European slaughterhouses using this method earlier this year when there was a supply shortage.

AIR, Guillotin’s contribution was the angled blade. The one’s he’d seen in use had a horizontal blade, and were more likely to jam or fail to complete…

Imagine what the screams would sound like. Not at all a dignified way to go.

golf clap

I’m hearing that scene from The Fly in the spider web: “Help me! Heellp mee!”

All of Mary Roach’s books go into way more detail than most people would wish about all kinds of things we would rather not think about. (why, yes, I have read them)

You have to breathe air at 2-4 atm pressure to notice any signs of nitrogen narcosis. So no way to suffer from it at 1 atm of pressure. And it’s not unpleasant anyway - I’ve had some mild symptoms on a 100 ft dive, and I felt fine - I only knew because I did some mental exercises during the the dive to test it.

According to this chart, nitrogen narcosis doesn’t start to be an issue until you’re breathing atmosphere at 2 bars absolute pressure. That means breathing nitrogen at 1.8 bars partial pressure. If you’re breathing pure N2 at 1 bar, you won’t get narc’d.

Moreover, nitrogen narcosis takes some time to set in. If you’re inhaling pure N2, hypoxic unconsciousness will occur within a few seconds.

According to this chart, helium has a very low narcotic potency compared to nitrogen. And, as mentioned above, hypoxic unconsciousness arrives pretty quickly. If helium is cheap enough for party balloons, then it’s cheap enough for executions - although I expect nitrogen is even cheaper.

ninja’d by muldoonthief…

Can you elaborate on this? I know that an axe-wielding headsman could take multiple blows to sever a head – the human body is tougher than you expect, and there’s a lot to cut there. The guillotine was invented* precisely to avoid the problem of multiple blows. Considering that the blade is positioned to fall in a good spot, that it’s a sharp, angled blade with a considerable weight behind it, it’s hard to believe that a properly-functioning guillotine would fail to do its one and only job. One of the “selling points” of the device was its humane (compared to an incompetent axeman) execution.

Do you know of any cases where the guillotine failed to do its job?

*Dr. Guillotin wasn’t the inventor of the execution device, as the Wikipedia makes clear, although he did construct a prototype that was variant on existing devices. And he was, of course, a staunch advocate. But he didn’t like that his name got stuck on the machine.

The guillotine worked very well as long as it was properly built, properly maintained, had a heavy enough blade, and the person being executed was not exceptionally fat. There were a few cases where not all of these were true.

When Louis XVI was executed, the first blow did not completely sever his head. To be fair, the first blow might have killed him. All I know is that the head did not come off, and the blade had to be raised a second time to completely remove the head from the body. It should also be noted that witness accounts of the event vary.

I also know of one case where the guillotine was sabotaged. After a couple of failed attempts, the crowd grew unruly, and the executioners grabbed a gun and shot the condemned man in the back of the head.

What is the last thing that the severed head sees for 30 seconds before it expires? The bloody matted hair on the head of the guy who was killed before you? Sounds terrible.

Plus if you execute someone with helium when they scream ‘Ill see you in hell’ right before passing out it’ll take some of the seriousness out of the execution.

Personally I’d rather be shot in the back of the head. That is quick and painless if done properly.

But getting loaded on xanax, opiates, MDMA and LSD, then doing nitrogen asphyxiation doesn’t sound bad.