I would think that falling asleep is a humane as it gets?
Nitrogen or another inert gas would be just as effective for the person being executed and safer for the audience. Now, I’ll leave others to answer why none of the above are used.
Several states still have gas chambers. Drugs for lethal injection are getting hard to find and gas may be the necessary alternative.
This article mentions some botched executions by gas. Apparently gas is not always quick.
One of the main objections to gas chambers in general is that the person being executed doesn’t cooperate (which really shouldn’t be a surprise). If the person being executed would breathe normally, or even close to it, the currently used methods are painless and humane. What happens instead is that the victim struggles painfully not to breathe and ends up thrashing around and gasping for breath. I’ve never watched a gas chamber execution (and have no desire to do so) but from what I’ve read they are quite gruesome to watch. It’s definitely not a quick and painless death in practice.
Carbon monoxide was one of the gases used by the Nazis in WWII. It is currently used in some animal shelters, but there is a push by animal activists to ban gas chambers for animal euthanasia which is causing a decline in their use.
There was a thread about this a while back. Current gas chambers use cyanide to kill. Cyanide is usually almost instantaneous when taken directly, but not always so when administered via a large gas chamber. It can not only *not *be instant but gruesome as well.
I agree that they should use the exact same procedure as they do for lethal injection, but instead of intravenous injection they should just use a surgical breathing mask, administer general anesthesia first (which works very quickly, painlessly & reliably) then add in a powerful sedative that stops the heart. The ‘death’ chamber would just need to be well ventilated to prevent the possibility of anyone else being effected.
I think its mostly an emotional thing. Same reason we ban poison gas use in war, like it’s really that much worse than blowing people apart via high explosives…
Executions, like so many other aspects of our system of justice, are simply venues
where players vie for a piece of the action, and the guest of honor is forgotten, or shoved aside until every fool has strutted and fretted his hour upon the stage, and gleaned as large a piece of the pie for himself as possible.
If the intent was to simply end the life of the guilty (supposed) party, then they could do as they do for gasoline, toilet paper, or any other need of the state and put it out for bids, and I would almost bet a pretty that the successful bidder, subject to restrictive specs, would come in at less than $100, in fact, the temperament of certain demographics being what they would naturally be, it is entirely possible that the state could generate revenue by asking who would pay the most for the right to put gentle into that good night the poor sod . . .
I have done hundreds of research animal ‘sacrifices’ using a CO2 chamber. I am not even against the procedure and it is still fairly disturbing to watch - so much so that some researchers wouldn’t do it for their own experimental animals so other people like me had to do it for them. A CO2 chamber death is fairly quick (2 minutes or less) but you see them go berserk sometime after the first few seconds and then thrash around quite violently for a minute or more before they finally stop all movement. I don’t know that it is actually painful but the mammalian body has some instinctive countermeasures to being put to death and they are not pleasant to witness no matter how it is done.
I have no experience with nitrogen or carbon monoxide chambers. I know you can induce a painless death through carbon monoxide poisoning because it happens to people intentionally and unintentionally every year but the process takes a while (usually many minutes to hours depending on the concentration of the gas) and those are people that are either trying to commit suicide or don’t know that death is creeping up on them at all.
That does not apply to a person being intentionally executed. The ideal process needs to be 1) Very quick and 2) Hinder or mask the body’s natural defense mechanisms when it is confronted with a very sudden threat of death.
Lethal injections can do that because they use a series of very fast acting drugs meant to shut down the defensive systems and then stop essential life-sustaining processes. I am not sure you can achieve the same thing with someone who knows that they are being executed through gas. It would be either too slow to be palatable to most witnesses and cause the person to be executed to still be mostly conscious and panic in the beginning or it would be fast but trigger the body’s instinctual protective mechanisms.
The fastest way to kill someone instantly is to put them in a cell rigged with high explosives and then detonate it but most people also consider that distasteful.
That’s why I suggested nitrogen or other inert gas. Quite painless and when all is said and done just open all the windows and turn on some fans.
Speaking as a physician, and strictly in a technical sense*, I simply do not understand the problem that the states have in executing someone painlessly.
Every day thousands upon thousands of people have general anesthesia and are put to sleep quickly and without causing any agitation, discomfort, etc., to the patients.
I, myself, have had general anesthetics over a dozen times (a long story) and each time, upon awakening, I was struck with how sudden and decisive my loss of consciousness was.
Bottom line is that the executioners should simply follow the ‘typical’ recipe used by anaesthetists (but with a change in dose).
And, please note, by definition the drugs constituting the above recipes’ ingredients are widely available.
*i.e. I am not necessarily ‘for’ or ‘against’ capital punishment
CO[sub]2[/sub] ??? What inhumane idiot suggested that? Of course the animals go nuts. Their entire respiratory system is telling them that they are dying. They die frantic and in pain. CO is, as the OP suggest the humane gas. Or N[sub]2[/sub]. I can’t help but wonder if somewhere down the line somebody with less than useful knowledge in physiology missed the significant distinction.
In all seriousness, I would be wanting a talk with the ethics committee overseeing the research.
There have been threads before on this, and generally N[sub]2[/sub] seems about as humane as you could get. A gradual increase in concentration over time might avoid the worst issues. Given this is GQ I will grit my teeth and refrain from further comment on executions.
Hmm, if people wanted to stop the death penalty, could the condemned just pretend whatever method of execution was slow and painful and inhumane? It’s not like we can tell if it really is.
I drove an ice cream truck, using dry ice to keep the ice cream cold. The openings to the freezer were on the top, so the CO2 would build up inside. On a particularly hot day, I breathed in the “air” in the freezer, and it hurt my lungs. I guess that’s not surprising, since CO2 will form an acid when it dissolves into water.
Also, it’s the CO2 concentration in our blood that makes us want to breath. So I’m not surprised the animals thrashed about. In a pure nitrogen atmosphere, from what I’ve read, you don’t have the urge to breath more than normal, and it wouldn’t make your lungs acidic, so I’d expect that to be much less painful. I don’t think CO makes water acidic or triggers the breath reflex, so I wouldn’t expect that to be painful either.
Probably would be different at very high concentrations, but when they talk about CO poisoning on TV they mention headaches and flu-like symptoms. I don’t think you’d have even that with N2 suffocation.
Hell, they could just anesthetize the condemned inmate and then hang him/shoot him/stab him/put him in an industrial shredder for all the difference it would make in terms of pain.
Or… more likely, they’d just anesthetize them, and then dose them with something to stop their heart. Pretty similar to the current lethal injection protocol, except that someone would need to be trained in how to administer the anesthetic without being an actual anesthetist, since doctors don’t participate in executions.
Although you couldn’t get away with it today, the scenes in the 1970 scifi film* The Andromeda Strain* which show lab animals dying almost immediately in their cages when exposed to the airborne germ were accomplished via CO[sub]2[/sub]. However, great care was taken to insure that all the animals survived unharmed. Just off camera there was a vet wearing a respirator who immediately revived them with Oxygen after the scene cuts away.
Like I said, you couldn’t even do that today, just the stress inflicted on the animal would be considered too cruel. And, as stated by others, the animals do clearly suffer severe (if short) duress during those scenes. Now of course they’d just use CG.
I believe the answer is more political than scientific. The desire to kill a felon is dressed up in procedure, which ever method is used. It is an act of theater with or without observers.
The unspoken rule is that the person must be aware of what is happening and suffer enough to satisfy death penalty proponents, but not so much that it offends death penalty opponents.
It would be very easy to use the old British Method of hanging (where the actual amount of time used from arrival of the hangman to death was under ten seconds. Maybe the speed of dispatch does not accord with the desire to cause psychic distress.
Similarly a simple routine using chemicals could be set up that would cause no greater distress than necessary. This would consist of an IM injection of serious pre-med (easy to administer after strapping to a Gurney.) followed by unconsciousness and then adminsitration of a General anesthetic and then death by any means as the person is beyond awareness- eben hanging, drawing and quartering would be possible as a painless option!
Getting the balance right between distress caused to the person and distress caused to the state and population is all that matters.
It is just theater and states choose what level of distress they wish to use.
Myself I just think that all such deaths demean those involved more than they meet any societal need, but that is just a view held by most of the civilized world.
Thanks everyone. Any reaction to KarlGauss’ response? I had forgotten about the question of anesthesia. Surely you could O.D. a convict before he/she could put up much of a fight.
I only caught a bit of this recently, but my understanding is that it’s because those drugs are popular that they aren’t used. Specifically, most suppliers for the U.S. are European and are concerned that their product not be used in capital punishment, and any manufacturer-imposed restrictions would severely hamper standard surgeries. Here’s an example regarding Propofol (which just about anyone these days would imagine might be effective)
Seems odd that a country as large as the U.S. wouldn’t have sufficient domestic supply, but then I also think it’s weird that firing squads aren’t an option there anymore. Edit: This article says that people are worried about a ban even if the product is domestically produced.
I also wonder why N[sup]2[/sup] and CO aren’t popular; there’s always enough people doing it accidentally to prove it’s painless, supply, delivery and cleanup are trivial…
I’m not sure it’s a quick process though. Maybe that has something to do with it?
N[sup]2[/sup] seems the most humane (and green!) if going gas chamber.
Or high explosives. But who wants to clean that up?