What You Didn't Know About the Death Penalty's Lethal Injection
By Vanessa Palencia
Since Pennsylvania moved executions into correctional facilities, ending public executions, states all throughout the US have fluctuated in execution methods. However, in light of Arkansas’ attempts to execute eight death row inmates in 11 days, we have to wonder what changes are happening to create this urgency.
Currently, the death penalty is legal in 31 states. Most of these states have done away with old-time methods, such as hanging, a firing squad, and the electric chair and replaced them with the infamous lethal injection.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the lethal injection, it is a three-step process that involves three different types of drugs: pentobarbital (an anesthetic), pancuronium bromide (a paralytic), and potassium chloride (stops the heart and causes death). The injections are delivered in that order to the person on death row. Unfortunately, there have been some shortages on the drugs needed for this application, so some states have decided to create their own recipe. However, the new recipes seem to be falling short of success.
According to a few witnesses, inmates’ deaths have been heaving and coughing for as long as 45 minutes. On the Death Penalty Information Center’s website, one witness said that the prisoner “struggled, made guttural noises and choked for about 10 minutes” while another prisoner yelled out that he could feel his whole body burning. The death penalty is already being questioned by an increasing number of law enforcement professionals as to whether it effectively deters crime, so having unsuccessful executions due to poor homemade lethal injection recipes add to the inhumanity of the death penalty.
Other states have reinstated old methods when the drugs required for the lethal injections are unavailable. Utah has approved of using a firing squad, Tennessee has approved of the electric chair, California uses the gas chamber and Washington and Delaware hang their prisoners, to name a few. By restoring these old, indecent methods, the US is adding to an already barbaric act. Thus, we need to ensure that we obtain the appropriate drugs necessary or wait until a successful lethal injection recipe breaks through. Whether you are a proponent of the death penalty or not, it is our moral obligation as citizens to keep our humanity alive, which means making sure that the prisoners on death row do not suffer more than they need to.