Lethal, and Inhumane

September 13, 2007

Lethal, and Inhumane

Fall 2007

Lethal, and Inhumane

By Brian Evans

Lethal injection, once touted as a "humane" method of execution, has come under increasing scrutiny over the past year. Beginning in 2004, defense lawyers began to focus on the cruelty of two of the three chemicals used in most lethal-injection protocols. One, potassium chloride, is prohibited by the American Veterinary Medical Association as a sole agent of euthanasia because it is too painful, and a second, pancuronium bromide, is widely banned by states for use on animals because it is a paralytic that masks suffering.

In the last two years, defense lawyers have initiated several lawsuits against states alleging that lethal injection constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. These lawsuits effectively established temporary moratoriums on executions in at least nine states in 2006. AIUSA activists have seized this opportunity to work with coalition partners to expose the cruelty of lethal injection and call for permanent moratoriums or abolition.

States have responded in a variety of ways. Some are trying to mandate the inclusion of medical professionals in the execution process, despite the fact that all major healthprofessional associations explicitly prohibit participation in executions. Others have revised their execution procedures, but these reforms have to do with personnel rather than the chemicals used.

Find out more about AIUSA's program to Abolish the Death Penalty