Contemplating lethal injection
Published: Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 16:02
For those given a death sentence in the United States, the most common course of action when their day of judgment comes is termination through lethal injection, but recent events have put an indefinite halt on these executions.
This delay in production has us rethinking the death penalty and examining possible alternatives to lethal injections.
Sodium thiopental is one of three drugs administered in the execution process and its purpose is to make the person unconscious before they receive the pancuronium bromide to prevent his or her lungs from functioning. Finally, the potassium chloride stops their heart.
Now, sodium thiopental, which is produced only by Hospira Inc. in Lake Forest, Ill., has decided to stop manufacturing the drug altogether.
Hospira Inc. planned to produce the drug in Italy and then have it exported back to the States, but Italian officials said they would not allow the drug to leave the country unless they could be promised that it would not be used for lethal executions.
Hospira Inc. could not provide them with this guarantee, so they came to the decision to cease production entirely.
Many countries in Europe have ethical objections to killing someone for their crimes. Even our own country can't decide as a whole if capital punishment is the proper course of action or not.
Right now, the fate of lethal injections is uncertain. Ohio and Oklahoma, for example, have decided to replace sodium thiopental with pentobarbital, a sedative that is also used in many medications.
However, the company that manufactures this drug also urges for it to not be used in lethal injections.
Despite all this, it is unlikely that executions will stop entirely.
Our country has a fair and balanced justice system and capital punishment is reserved for the worst of the worst; men and women who have committed atrocious crimes, sometimes without regret.
Regardless, we have to question whether or not any human being has the authority to decide who lives and who dies, and what crimes should be punishable by death.
When considering capital punishment, money is always a major factor.
Most people believe that keeping an inmate in jail for life is more expensive than executing them because you have to pay for food, clothing, medical care and basic living essentials. This all makes sense, but it's the legal process that really adds up when it comes to capital punishment.
Because the death sentence is such a serious punishment, those convicted are given several opportunities to argue their innocence, even to the Supreme Court, if the case makes it that far.
The legal process of appeals can be extremely lengthy and expensive, but it's necessary to make sure an innocent man or woman isn't killed for a crime he or she didn't commit.
In a state such as California where the appeal process is slow and the prisons are overcrowded, the average wait on death row is 20 years.
Because every accused person is granted legal counsel by the state if they cannot afford to pay for it themselves, the majority of these extensive appeals are paid for through tax money.
"It's 10 times more expensive to kill them than to keep them alive," said Donald McCartin, a retired judge who gave nine men death sentences but has had a change of heart.
An article published by the Associated Press last year states that New Jersey abolished the death sentence in favor of life in prison because it costs an average of $4.2 million for each prisoner on death row.
Each state has its own policies regarding capital punishment; 35 states allow it, whereas 14 states and the District of Columbia prohibit it.
In light of this shortage, serious thought should be given to the future of capital punishment and whether or not our country has the time, money, or pharmaceutical resources to continue this practice.