Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Humane Society

Just last spring the Supreme Court of the United States found that the procedures followed by the state of Kentucky for execution by lethal injection were constitutional. The issue was not whether lethal injection is constitutional, but concerned the details of the injection’s administration: the chemicals used, the training of the personnel, the adequacy of medical supervision, and the consequences and risk of error.

You may be aware that convicted murderer Darold Stenson is scheduled to be executed by the State of Washington on Dec 3, 2008. His execution has been stayed by two judges, one state and one federal, for two different reasons.

While there's a lot in the story that interests me, one part I keyed on was the Department of Corrections policy (PDF file) and procedures for capital punishment. These were revised just last month, the manner of which resulting in the appeal to the federal court. Killing someone, even in the name of justice, is a gruesome task and the policy rightfully, and yet in some respects unfortunately, leaves a lot to the imagination.

Dr Michael J. Souter, Associate Professor, Anesthesiology & Neurosurgery at UW and the Medical Co-Director, Neurocritical Care Service at Harborview Medical Center, submitted testimony in Stenson's federal case where he describes how easily lethal injection can and has been botched.

Can the death penalty be administered so the person dies in dignified manner? If we as a society are so concerned about cruel and unusual punishment, why are we not so concerned about taking a life? If we truly believe the state, on our behalf, is justified in taking a life as punishment, why should we concern ourselves with the means?

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