World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


US. Court Allows Challenges to Lethal Injections

U.S.: Supreme Court Allows Challenges to Lethal Injections

Prisoners Claim Execution Method Risks Excruciating Pain

(New York) – The Supreme Court ruling today on lethal injections will allow death row inmates to challenge an execution method that is less humane than it appears, Human Rights Watch said today. The court ruled unanimously that condemned prisoners can challenge the humaneness of the lethal series of chemicals that will be used to execute them.

“Prisoners will now be able to challenge state use of a three-drug concoction that may amount to cruel punishment,” said Sarah Tofte, coauthor of the recent Human Rights Watch report, “So Long As They Die: Lethal Injections in the United States.” “As these cases reveal the risk of excruciating pain in lethal injection procedures, states may come to realize that any method of execution is cruel and unusual.”

Lethal injection executions are virtually the only form of execution used to kill prisoners in the United States. Of the 1,026 executions since 1976, 858 were by lethal injection. Every execution in 2005 was by lethal injection.

Mounting evidence suggests at least some prisoners may have suffered horribly before they died, awake and wracked by pain but unable to move to let anybody know, Human Rights Watch said in its April 2006 report. Logs from six recent executions in California reveal that prisoners’ chests were still moving regularly up and down long after the anesthetic in the three-drug protocol should have stopped their breathing – suggesting they were awake and suffering. Toxicology reports from executions in North Carolina also suggest some prisoners had been inadequately anesthetized.

Dr. Jay Chapman, an Oklahoma medical examiner with no pharmacology experience, invented the lethal injection protocol in 1977 without doing any research. The three-drug sequence he devised is now used in all 37 lethal injection states; Nebraska executes prisoners by electrocution.

Under the protocol, the condemned prisoner is strapped to a gurney and injected first with a massive dose of the anesthetic sodium pentothal, which should render him unconscious. Next comes pancuronium bromide, a drug that paralyzes voluntary muscles, including the lungs and diaphragm, but leaves a conscious prisoner able to experience pain. Then potassium chloride brings swift cardiac arrest.

Potassium chloride is known to be so painful that U.S. veterinarian guidelines prohibit its use on domestic animals unless the vet first ensures they are deeply unconscious. No such safeguards are routinely observed for lethal injection executions.

“It’s clear that more care is taken in the U.S. for killing dogs than for killing prisoners,” Tofte said.

The executioners, normally corrections officers rather than medical staff, stay behind a wall injecting drugs into IV tubes, and cannot necessarily see the prisoner. No one makes sure the prisoner is unconscious after the anesthetic is administered; if he is not, he will be aware of suffocating from the pancuronium bromide and will feel the fiery pain of potassium chloride coursing through his veins to his heart.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all circumstances and calls for its abolition. But until the 38 death penalty states and the federal government abolish capital punishment, international human rights law requires them to ensure they have developed a method of execution that will reduce, to the greatest extent possible, the condemned prisoner’s risk of mental or physical pain and suffering.

“Judges will no longer be able to dismiss the prisoners’ challenges to lethal injection protocols as frivolous stalling tactics,” Tofte said. “Even those convicted of the most heinous crimes are entitled to humane treatment.”

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: Is This Guy The World’s Most Dangerous Thirtysomething?

Saudi Arabia has long been regarded as a pillar of stability in the Middle East, and is the essential caterer to the West’s fossil fuel needs. It is also the country that gave us Osama Bin Laden, al Qaeda, and 15 of the 19 terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks... More>>


Non-Binding Postal Vote: Australia Says Yes To Same Sex Marriage

Binoy Kampmark: Out of 150 federal seats, 133 registered affirmative totals in returning their response to the question “Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?”. More>>


Bonn Climate Change Conference: Protecting Health In Small Island States

The vision is that, by 2030, all Small Island Developing States will have health systems that are resilient to climate change and countries around the world will be reducing their carbon emissions both to protect the most vulnerable from climate risks and deliver large health benefits in carbon-emitting countries. More>>


Camp Shut Down: Refugees Must Be Rescued From Manus

On 31st October 2017, the detention centre on Manus Island in which the Australian Government has been holding more than 700 refugees was closed, leaving those living there in a desperate situation. More>>



Rohingya Muslims Massacred: Restrictions On Aid Put 1000s At Risk

Amnesty: The Myanmar authorities’ restrictions on international aid in Rakhine state is putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in a region where mainly Rohingya people are already suffering horrific abuses from a disproportionate military campaign. More>>


  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC