Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Experiments In Bone And Flesh (Part Whatever)

States Turn to an Unproven Method of Execution: Nitrogen Gas.

Hamstrung by troubles with lethal injection — gruesomely botched attempts, legal battles and growing difficulty obtaining the drugs — states are looking for alternative ways to carry out the death penalty. High on the list for some is a method that has never been used before: inhaling nitrogen gas.
Oklahoma, Alabama and Mississippi have authorized nitrogen for executions and are developing protocols to use it, which represents a leap into the unknown. There is no scientific data on executing people with nitrogen, leading some experts to question whether states, in trying to solve old problems, may create new ones.
“If and when states begin carrying out executions with nitrogen, it will amount to the same type of experimentation we see in the different variations of lethal injection,” said Jen Moreno, a lawyer who is an expert on lethal injection at the Berkeley Law Death Penalty Clinic.
Old Joe Mengele would be proud.
Nebraska and Nevada hope to soon start using the opioid fentanyl as a sedative. Illegal use has made it a scourge of national death statistics, but medically it is an important painkiller and anesthetic. Defense lawyers in Nebraska have argued that fentanyl comes under a federal law that limits its distribution to lifesaving purposes, and that it is therefore illegal for a prison clinic to distribute it for an execution. A trial seeking information about the source of the fentanyl is scheduled for May 14.
Well, since opioids and the synthetic version fentanyl are already killing 65,000 people a year in the U.S., what's a few more death row inmates, right?

But more troubling is the Final Exit-approved method of nitrogen gas.
In March, Oklahoma’s attorney general, Mike Hunter, said that using nitrogen was “the safest, the best and the most effective method available.”
There is scant scientific data to back up that statement. What little is known about human death by nitrogen comes from industrial and medical accidents and its use in suicide. In accidents, when people have been exposed to high levels of nitrogen and little air in an enclosed space, they have died quickly. In some cases co-workers who rushed in to rescue them also collapsed and died.
Er... wonder how hard it will be to get folks to volunteer for the execution team under those circumstances. "The inmate will probably die, but there's a chance you might too." Sure, I'll do it for the extra pay check.

Also, Mike Hunter's goofy comments, which I appropriately ridiculed back in March, are still as goofy today as they were then.
Dr. Charles D. Blanke, who has studied data on physician-assisted dying, said it was not at all clear that nitrogen inhalation would bring a peaceful death. Dr. Blanke, a medical oncologist and professor at Oregon Health and Science University, said he had consulted colleagues in pulmonary medicine and anesthesiology, and they had concerns that carbon dioxide actually could build up and cause feelings of suffocation.
Nitrogen is not used in states where medically assisted dying is legal; those patients, who are terminally ill, usually drink a huge dose of barbiturates.
So in other words, Chuck Blanke doesn't know what would happen either.
Veterinary experts generally do not recommend nitrogen or other inert gases for euthanizing mammals. Responses to the gas vary according to species, and in its 2013 guidelines, the American Veterinary Medical Association said, “Current evidence indicates this method is unacceptable because animals may experience distressing side effects before loss of consciousness.”
Look, at least when we moved from the three drug protocol in lethal injection to the single drug barbiturate push, I mentioned at least the method was Vet-approved. Same way we put down our dogs and cats is good enough for them criminals. 

But you can't even get the Vets to go along with this shit. In fact, the only people you can are the Final Exit assisted suicide nut cases.
The Final Exit Network, a volunteer organization that supports the rights of people with terminal illness or intractable suffering to end their lives, considers nitrogen inhalation a reasonable method, and directs people to information about it. The technique involves putting a plastic bag over one’s head and pumping in nitrogen.
Janis Landis, president of the network, said: “The science behind inert gases is quite well settled. Any inert gas, one can breathe it in, in place of oxygen. You don’t have air hunger. You can keep breathing. You pass out and you die.”
Ms. Landis said, “People opposed to the death penalty, scratching their heads about how this could work, I think they’re mixing up their views about whether this should be done versus whether it can be done.”
Er, no Janis. What they're scratching their heads about is how Nazi-like do we want to get in our zest and zeal to kill other human beings? Obviously, being president of such an organization, we know your thoughts. Beats turkey roasting bags and hose pipes hooked up to helium tanks from Party City, eh?

But it's not just the assisted-suicide ghouls out pushing for nitrogen. So is Big Capitalism.
According to state documents, in May of 2016, an Arizona company sent a sales-pitch letter for nitrogen gas executions to Nebraska corrections officials. Among the standout features of its Euthypoxia Chamber: It “produces calm and sedation followed by inebriation and euphoria;” it “requires no medical expertise;” and it guarantees “the demise of any mammalian life in 4 minutes.”
In passing along the letter to another official, a state corrections department executive hand-wrote: “I’m not intending to respond — just thought it was an odd correspondence.”
LOL. 'Odd' is one word for it. F'ing 'sick' is another.

As I've noted on this blog for more than a decade, the death penalty in 21st century society is an anachronism that is headed for the ash heap of history. As the article notes, out of the handful of countries left that do administer the death penalty, only the U.S. finds itself too squeamish to behead, hang, or shoot people via firing squads (ironic, given our gun fetish). 

So we desperately keep coming up with these increasingly medicalized and sanitized methods to kill that somehow makes us feel better about the whole machinery of death. 

As I wrote back in March, maybe they'll try mass doses of nitrous oxide if pure nitrogen doesn't work or isn't made available. And we can send the condemned to their demise literally laughing their ass off.

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