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Saturday, February 25, 2006

California, Liberalism, and Lethal Injections

At Sixth Column and 6th Column Against Jihad, our only opposition to the death penalty comes from possible errors of knowledge and immorality. One of the greatest of tragedies comes from the discovery that someone put to death was later determined absolutely to be innocent. Mistakes and earlier limitations in technology must make us think many more times than twice about killing labelled as "criminal." Worse yet, there are too many cases of prosecutorial moral terpitude that have resulted in official convictions of persons later determined to be entirely innocent.

Some cases go far beyond any possible doubt, and this California case of Michael Morales seems to be one. Yet, his date with death has been postponed. Errors of knowledge discovered? No. Moral transgressions discovered? No.

In the case of Morales, California "liberal epistemology' prevailed with the notion tha--possibly, perhaps, maybe--the lethal injections might hurt, and the injectee might "suffer."

Mona Charen sums up the Morales morass: :: Columns :: Lethal injection blues by Mona Charen - Feb 24, 2006

[Read Mona Charen's article for grisly details of the murder.]

Opponents of the death penalty have been rummaging through their bag of tricks and come up with the theory that lethal injection amounts to "cruel" punishment. California had been using a three-drug cocktail to execute criminals. The first, a barbiturate, induces unconsciousness. The other drugs paralyze the muscles and stop the heart. The drugs typically result in death within about seven minutes. Death penalty opponents argue that if the barbiturate for some reason fails to sedate the criminal, he might experience pain when the other drugs are administered yet be unable to gesture or signal distress due to the paralyzing nature of the other drugs.

California opted to seek the services of anesthesiologists but ran into a brick wall.

(Emphases mine)

Before retiring from military service, I practiced as a board-certified anesthesiologist. My comments come from the knowledge and experience I accrued.

First, no anesthesiologist in his right mind in litigious California would participate, as these bureaucrats want, in killing Morales. Aside from having none of organized medicine's support, these anesthesiologists would have to flee America in the dead of night to have another moment of peace in their lives. Journalists and trial lawyers would make their lives hell. Besides, the most important fact is that killing Morales or anyone else is a state function, and not a medical function. These anesthesiologists from all over California were correct in refusing.

But now to the nutsy liberal thinking that sprung Morales from the lethal injections. The three lethal injection medications are thiopental sodium, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. While I do not know the exact doses of the latter two, I can say about all three that they are super doses, enough to kill a platoon of men.

Television news cited the thiopental sodium dose as being 5 grams. That is 5000 milligrams. The standard anesthetic induction dose is well under 500 milligrams. Without vital functions support, 5000 milligrams is a lethal dose, producing unconsciousness in one circulation time of some 9 seconds or slightly longer. FIVE GRAMS OF PENTOTHAL SODIUM CANNOT FAIL TO PRODUCE TOTAL UNCONSCIOUSNESS AND FOR A PERIOD LONG ENOUGH TO CAUSE HYPOXIC DEATH.

Unconsciousness obliviates the perception of pain. Right behind the thiopental sodium comes pancuronium bromide which is a very long curare-like neuromuscular paralyzing agent. Among other muscles it paralyzes is the diaphragm, that essential-to-respiration muscle, for a very long time, way beyond surviving without support. Finally, potassium chloride produces fatal rhythm disturbances in the heart. All of these take a few minutes to produce a hypoxic death in a profoundly unconscious person. It is entirely irrelevant in which order the drugs are given--all are lethal doses of each.

Where is the pain? If there is any at all, it is with the first few milliliters of the thiopental sodium injection. Some persons undergoing anesthesia and surgery have more sensitive vein linings, and they sense a slight sting with the initial injection. A few milliliters of a local anesthetic such as lidocaine just ahead of the pentothal sodium obviates that. Can someone still be conscious after 5000 milligrams of thiopental sodium? Absolutely not, ever!

So, where in reality comes the concern for pain and suffering? It does not come from reality because it cannot. Such concern can come from just one place: defective liberal thinking. Yes, "defective liberal thinking" is a redundancy.


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