William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Tuesday, 8, December, 2009

One Drug

Filed under: People who need pianos dropped on them,Politics,Science — williamthecoroner @ 23:06

As Breda pointed out,

Today at 11:47AM at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, Kenneth Biros was the first person ever to die by a one-drug method of lethal injection.

There was some controversy about the execution. Previously, Ohio had used a three-drug cocktail, a barbiturate, a paralytic agent, and potassium to anesthetise the prisoner and stop his heart. In some instances, technicians had difficulty finding a vein (though a femoral stick or an intra-osseous line were not used. Those you can ALWAYS get). The single drug protocol had been criticised as being “experimental”, but of course, it can’t be tested to make sure it was painless. For obvious reasons. The controversy appeared to me to be a Catch-22 a spurious controversy brought up by anti-death penalty activists.

I have profound reservations about the death penalty. How it is applied, and who is put to death are part of these reservations, which I will not address now. Mechanistically, putting someone to death can be

  1. clean
  2. quick
  3. painless

Pick any TWO.  A bullet to the head is quick and painless.  It’s messy.  Hanging, as practiced by the British, is clean and quick.  I don’t know about painless.  Sitting atop 100 pounds of dynamite is quick and painless, but leaves a big mark.

Fundamentally,  I think the death penalty needs to be reserved for people who have voluntarily stepped outside the pale, and are willing to do awful things to people.  The Lundgrens of this world.  There are a pair of rough-off robbers in Florida who start their robberies by shooting the first two people they see in the store-as a terroristic threat.  People who are willing to use violence for political ends.  (I’m talking about you, Mr. McVeigh).  Predatory violence needs to be addressed in this fashion.

And, as a society, we need to get serious.  Serious about what crimes are predatory violence, serious about doing something about it, serious about making sure the right guy is punished for the crime.  If you’re not serious, then take the whole death penalty issue off the table.


  1. I’m reminded of a scene from H. Beam Piper’s book, “Little Fuzzy.” In it, it describes how a murderer will be executed. As best I remember, the Sheriff takes the prisoner out back of the jail and shoots him in back of the head. The body is sent to a mass converter to be used as fuel. Here ‘n now, just ship it off to a crematorium.

    One of the things I liked about Piper’s stories was the no-nonsense matter he used for such subjects. Quick and matter of fact, not to mention cheap.

    Comment by Crucis — Wednesday, 9, December, 2009 @ 13:11 | Reply

  2. Being murdered is rarely clean, quick, and painless. (For that matter, neither are most natural deaths.) But I can understand why the death penalty isn’t supposed to be a “tortured to death” penalty.

    So the one-drug method makes sense to me–giving a paralytic when you can’t be 100% certain the person is unconscious gives me the heebie jeebies. Barbituate overdose, whether it takes longer or not, seems like a much more comfortable way to die.

    Comment by Holly — Thursday, 10, December, 2009 @ 12:21 | Reply

  3. I read somewhere that the drug used is the same as (or at least quite similar to – the story wasn’t 100% clear) the drug used by veterinarians in euthanizing animals. If so, it doesn’t seem to bother the animals, although they might already be in enough pain that nothing could be worse.

    As for the death penalty in general, I would tend to support a moratorium, not out of great moral feelings, but because of the documented mistakes in applying it. Certain people — like McVeigh, as you point out, John Mohammed, Gacy, bin Laden — just need to be executed as quickly as possible (and pain, neatness, and speed don’t count).

    Comment by Mr618 — Thursday, 10, December, 2009 @ 14:39 | Reply

  4. It seems to me that the purposes of the lethal injection protocol are to not alarm the witnesses and to leave a good-looking corpse. I’ve always thought that destruction of the brain stem was about as painless as possible but how to do it without the messy side effects?

    Comment by TBeck — Friday, 11, December, 2009 @ 18:14 | Reply

  5. […] Year End Blog Digest Filed under: Blogania — williamthecoroner @ 13:41 My Best Posts of 2009: January February March April May June July August September October November December […]

    Pingback by Year End Blog Digest « William The Coroner’s Forensic Files — Thursday, 31, December, 2009 @ 13:42 | Reply

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