American states that retain the death penalty are considering a return to long-abandoned execution methods as they grapple with a shortage of lethal injection drugs. Death row prisoners in the United States are taking twice as long to die after being injected with lethal drugs, according to a new report.
With drug companies refusing to provide the products traditionally used to kill prisoners, authorities now are turning to new and sometimes untested medications. Since 1982, lethal injection has gradually become the execution method of choice across the 32 states in the US that practise the death penalty. Campaigners say it is a chaotic and inhumane development which is subjecting prisoners to a terrible suffering death.
European manufacturers stopped selling their drugs to US states if they were to be used to put humans to death, officials have been forced to find other suppliers, often turning to non-federally regulated US compounding pharmacies. Many people, from doctors to pharmacists to anaesthesiologists to drug manufacturers and to governments across the world - particularly in Europe - have decided to boycott the use of medical drugs to participate in executions, which all are saying is unethical and totally unacceptable.
This has prompted an increasing number of lawsuits which allege the new drug cocktails amount to "cruel and unusual punishment" for those condemned to die - a violation of the US Constitution.
"If we started to have these old methods in regular executions, we'd have terrible stories," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Centre, predicting greater public and judicial scrutiny over methods blamed for "too many botched executions".
Ron McAndrew, a former warden at Florida State Prison, has a gruesome recollection of a bungled electric chair execution he saw in March 1997. "There was a plume of smoke coming out from underneath the capper helmet on his head, followed by a long flame. Then we had a lot of smoke and more fire coming out from underneath the helmet. From the next 11 minutes, the room filled up with smoke, we burnt the top of his head off. It was the worst smell I've ever smelled in my life." McAndrew told AFP.
BOTCHED EXECUTIONS: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/some-examples-post-furman-botched-execut...