Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Is Lethal Injection Cruel and Unusual Punishment?

All capital punishment cases nationwide have been held up for nearly a year pending a decision by the Supreme Court on lethal injection. The decision that was announced this month, April 16, 2008, decided that lethal injection is not cruel and unusual punishment. In my mind, bringing that case was absurd, it is obvious to me that lethal injection is not tantamount to torture as the litigants claimed.

Anyone who has undergone surgery in a hospital has suffered worse pain than the recipient of lethal injection. That is only because the surgery patient eventually wakes up to feel the aftereffects of surgery. When someone is executed by lethal injection, the first thing that they do is inject him with the same medication that puts you to sleep before surgery. The only difference being, that they give a condemned man four times the usual dosage because they are not concerned about overdose. Then after the condemned man passes out, they administer two more injections, one that stops his heart and one that stops his lungs.

The reason why attorneys brought the case that claimed capitol punishment was cruel and unusual punishment, was because a condemned man did not pass out when the first injection was administered. He waited on the table for 10 minutes while the attendants poked him with needles to find a good vein and finally were able to complete the execution 15 minutes later. That 15 minutes of waiting to die while being poked with needles was considered cruel and unusual punishment by his lawyers.

I would like to draw a comparison here again to a hospital patient. It is quite common in hospitals that nurses struggle to find a vein and cause excruciating pain to the patient in the process. I witnessed this many times when I took Jay-Jay, Steve and other friends of mine to the hospital ER room. Many times they screamed and yelled and tears came to their eyes from the pain. Sometimes the torment would last ten or fifteen minutes. Once I was in the recovery room when Jay-Jay came out of surgery and her pain was so severe she was in utter torment. I nearly passed out just from witnessing her distress. The nurse caught me and guided me to a chair before I fell down.

I have heard news stories on TV about patients who wake up in the middle of surgery, often their muscles are still paralyzed because of the anesthesia. They are unable to signal to the doctors that they are fully awake, and they feel the excruciating pain as the surgeon cuts into their flesh while lying paralyzed on the operating table. This is more common than you may think. If this is not torture, then I do not know what torture is.

I know someone who has suffered from Kidney stones on several occasions. The pain from kidney stones has been described as some of the worst pain a person can feel. I have had a procedure where they put a tube with a camera up the hole of my penis while I was fully conscious. I am cringing now just thinking about the excruciating pain that I felt. I have suffered from a broken collar bone at age 12 and I can still remember the excruciating pain as I waited to go to the doctor to have a cast put on. The excruciating pain lasted several days. I have been the victim of headaches that were so severe that I remember wishing that I was dead so the pain would end. One time I suffered with this type of headache for a full week.

The point that I am trying to make is that suffering and torment can be an unavoidable part of life for many ordinary, people who did nothing to deserve it. Many of us will suffer horrifically when we are in the process of dying, whether it be accidental or due to lingering illness. Painkillers are sometimes ineffective in certain cases of excruciating pain. Many of us will suffer horribly during our lives, others may escape severe pain entirely. But most of us will know firsthand, what physical torment can be.

Humanity has only had anesthetics available for a relatively short time. Archaeologists are digging up skulls from ancient civilizations with holes bored in them for surgical purposes, long before anesthetics were invented. During the civil war, it was common for medics to do amputations of limbs on the battle field, without anesthetics, to save soldiers lives. Pain, torment and suffering has always been part of the human experience. Much of it is minimized due to modern anesthesia, but most of us do suffer excruciating pain at some point during our normal lives and natural deaths.

Last week when the Supreme Court had ruled lethal injection was not considered cruel and unusual punishment, I supported that decision. The only thing that puzzled me is why this obvious fact had to rise to the level of the supreme court, before it could be decided. If this man had been allowed to die a natural death, the odds are good that he might have suffered worse when his time finally came.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If half the people in death row weren't innocent, then there wouldn't be a problem with lethal injection