Advocates of assisted suicide support it, because they believe that it is not painful to the individual and instead, acts as a relief for those suffering from a poor quality of life (whether it is due to an illness or old age). However, thirty-three of the fifty states support a painful assisted death, the lethal injection of prisoners.
In a recent report issued by the Human Rights Watch, titled So Long as They Die, the organization highlights that “although supporters of lethal injection believe the prisoner dies painlessly, there is mounting evidence that prisoners may have experienced excruciating pain during their executions.” Like methods described in the movie Suicide Plan, lethal injection requires a sequence of drugs: an anesthetic, a paralytic, and potassium chloride, which stops the heart. However, unlike the drug cocktail used during assisted suicide that yield a painless death, the drugs approved by state officials for legal injection have been deemed “too cruel to use on dogs and cats.” What makes it worse is that prisoners are often paralyzed but “insufficiently anesthetized,” and therefore, although they are experiencing intense pain, they are unable to “signal their distress.”
The descriptions of the things that have gone wrong in executions were appalling. Some included:
- “For over an hour, medical technicians and then a physician tried to find a suitable vein for intravenous access. The condemned inmate ended up with one needle in his hand, one in his neck, and a catheter inserted into the vein near his collarbone. One hour and nine minutes after he was strapped to the gurney, the prisoner was pronounced dead.
- “A kink in the intravenous tubing stopped some of the drugs from reaching an inmate. In the same execution, the intravenous needle was inserted pointing the wrong way-towards the inmate’s fingers instead of his heart, which slowed the effect of the drugs.”
- “A prisoner who initially lost consciousness during his lethal injection execution began convulsing, opened his eyes, and appeared to be trying to catch his breath while his chest heaved up and down repeatedly. This lasted for approximately ten minutes before his body stopped twitching and thrashing on the gurney.”