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May 1, 2007

Academic insights on the lethal injection scrummages

Lethal injection guru Professor Debby Denno now has up on SSRN her latest insights in this article entitled "The Lethal Injection Quandary: How Medicine Has Dismantled the Death Penalty."  Here is the abstract:

On February 20, 2006, Michael Morales was hours away from execution in California when two anesthesiologists declined to participate in his lethal injection procedure, thereby halting all state executions.  The events brought to the surface the long-running schism between law and medicine, raising the question of whether any connection between the professions ever existed at all.  History shows it never did. Decades of botched executions prove it.

This article examines how states ended up with such constitutionally vulnerable lethal injection procedures, suggesting that physician participation in executions, though looked upon with disdain, is more prevalent - and perhaps more necessary - than many would like to believe. The article also reports the results of this author's unique nationwide study of lethal injection protocols and medical participation.  The study demonstrates that states have continued to produce grossly inadequate protocols that severely restrict sufficient understanding of how executions are performed and heighten the likelihood of unconstitutionality.  The part emphasizes in particular the utter lack of medical or scientific testing of lethal injection despite the early and continuous involvement of doctors but ongoing detachment of medical societies.  Lastly, the article discusses the legal developments that lead up to the current rush of lethal injection lawsuits as well as the strong and rapid reverberations that followed, particularly with respect to medical involvement.

This article concludes with two recommendations.  First, much like what occurred in this country when the first state switched to electrocution, there should be a nationwide study of proper lethal injection protocols.  An independent commission consisting of a diverse group of qualified individuals, including medical personnel, should conduct a thorough assessment of lethal injection, especially the extent of physician participation.  Second, this article recommends that states take their execution procedures out of hiding. Such visibility would increase public scrutiny, thereby enhancing the likelihood of constitutional executions.

May 1, 2007 at 10:04 PM | Permalink


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The abolitionist crowd clamors for doctor involvement, but then relies on medical licensing boards to threaten doctors with discipline.


Posted by: federalist | May 2, 2007 8:56:45 AM

Everyone knows this is the strategy. Perhaps it might be impossible to ethically execute people within the confines of the 8th amendment, and we should consider changing the 8th amendment to allow for more cruel punishments. If I recall correctly, this was suggested in lieu of the proposed flag-burning amendment, but the flag-burning amendment was considerd more important.

Posted by: S.cotus | May 2, 2007 10:43:04 AM

S.cotus, are you mixing apples and oranges? You talk about "ethics", which relates to medicine, and "cruel and unusual", which relates to a constitutional limitation. What exactly are you saying?

Posted by: federalist | May 2, 2007 11:08:37 AM

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