There is apparently a shortage of sodium thiopental… January 11, 2011

There is apparently a shortage of sodium thiopental, a drug mainly used to execute people.  In a way, that is just as well.  The death penalty is not a medical procedure, and should not be disguised as one.  Gurneys, needles, and IVs are the instruments of health care, and not of its opposite.  And it could be messy; I myself am aware of how much I must cooperate to even have my blood drawn!  To be candid, my first preference would be for the guillotine.  The executee does not suffer pain very long under the guillotine either.  And the severed head can be held up afterwards.  Those worthy of capital punishment are not old dogs, to be put down in their sleep.  The guillotine, actually, would to me provide a death with the dignity deserved by those who bear the image of God and yet have destroyed or profoundly abused it in another human being.

I am willing to abolish lethal injection, in fact, even if it means we lose the death penalty altogether.  The death penalty has been an important part of Christian civilization and civilization in general.  But if the only choice is between converting it into a pseudo-medical procedure (a blasphemy of medicine) and to lose the death penalty altogether, I am wiling to surrender the death penalty.

Related: “Documents reveal California’s desperate search for execution drug” by Sam Stanton at

pblaze 01/11/2011

Howard –

Our society shows how bad specific crimes are by the punishment meted out. Abolishing the death penalty saves a serial murderer’s life and would not only send the wrong message to our children about the horror and evil of murder, but violates the ethic of just retribution. In addition, Biblically God institutes his vengeance based on justice (e.g., “if you shed a man’s blood, by man should your blood be shed,” Gen 9:6) and executes it thru ordained government (Romans 13).

Your idea of using a guillotine, instead of using a painless injection, could be argued. But abolishing the death penalty because you think death by injection is a blasphemy of medicine seems to turn the principle of the greater good on its head. Allowing the premeditative murderer to live is unjust and cruel to the victim and family, and suppresses the decent human instinct of just retribution. Keep capital punishment even if you think lethal injection imperfect.

Paul Blaze

speotter 01/12/2011

I like the guillotine too.  The firing squad also has a certain charm.  Even “Old Sparky” works for me.  The more graphic the death the better for a deterrence.

Maybe we could put Kevorkian’s talents to use….

rogerh 01/12/2011

Your post caught my attention.  Two of my children who are in college and I talked about this very subject during a long drive home from Christmas with family.  We hadn’t considered the “medical practice” component of the lethal injection method of the death sentence.  Our discussion focused on the practice of beheading as a means of capital punishment.

The only objection to decapitation that sustained in the discussion, and became the focus was the dehumanizing effect that is tied with the practice.  Removing one’s head is to separate the humanness from one’s body.  This powerful metaphor (once dead and decomposed the connection no longer exists anyway), seems to communicate to the living (i.e. society) a brutality unlike any other form of death.  To the convicted, it really is not a concern because his life is ended, but to society at large the dehumanization is an almost unbearable message.  When the American reporter was executed in Iran a few years ago, half the story was that he was beheaded.  A moral outrage seems to accompany the practice.

For the state to remove heads implies that the state doesn’t recognize the individual’s person any longer.  This exactly contrasts with the notion of lethal injection which is to say because you are a person we will take your life in a dignified manner that respects your personhood.  (Interestingly, the abortion debate, at one level, also hinges on personhood.)  Now, it could be argued that a person convicted of a capital crime gave up the rights of personhood, but I think that would be a hard argument to sustain.

Physiologically, it may be the best way to go.  The blood pressure in the brain would almost instantly drop below the level needed for oxygen transfer into cells so death would be extremely fast.  It’s hard to know the level of pain, but it would seem to be low also – often the initial pain of a significant trauma is initially delayed.

So, for efficiency’s sake decapitation seems to be a viable option.  Yet, from a societal standpoint this may be one of the most brutal options of all.


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