Saturday, May 06, 2006

The death penalty follies

Wisconsin probably will have an advisory referendum on the death penalty. Here's hoping voters think really hard before pulling the levers in voting booths that could eventually lead to pulling the switches in executiion chambers (metaphorically speaking -- there are not actually so many levers and switches left).

A recent Cleveland Plain Dealer story reports that moral issues aside, there are efficiency and effectiveness challenges in state-sponsored murder.

"This isn't working," convicted murderer Joseph Clark said Tuesday morning as the lethal cocktail of drugs that was supposed to end his life backed up in his ruined vein and his arm began to swell.

Clark was commenting on his own problem-plagued execution, which finally came to pass after an unprecedented 40-minute scramble to find a working blood vessel that would accommodate the trickle of anesthetic and poisons. But his sentiments are shared in a broader context by opponents of lethal injection, who are challenging whether the procedure is a humane way to end a prisoner's life. The incident at the Lucasville prison - which quickly became national news - is the latest in a recent string of events that have focused increasing legal and political scrutiny on capital punishment by the needle.

The story continues:

The complications that delayed Tuesday's execution raise another issue. Intravenous drug users like Clark who have damaged their veins are notoriously difficult to prepare for lethal injection. A surgical procedure called a "cut-down," which exposes deeper, bigger blood vessels, is one solution, but medical professional groups say doctors' and nurses' participation in executions is unethical.

The people who struggled to find a useable vein for Clark's execution included paramedics, but not a nurse or doctor, said Ohio corrections department spokeswoman Andrea Dean.

Similar problems with lethal injection have occurred at least a dozen times in other states over the years, according to a review by Radelet.

"This seems to be a method the states really don't have a grip on," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington. "They do it with what little training they have, but when something goes wrong, they don't know what to do."

1 comment: said...

Great post Gretchen.

You may be interested to know that Wisconsin was the first state to outlaw the death penalty for all crimes.