Friday, January 17, 2014

Condemned man dies slowly

Dennis McGuire did not die an easy death.

After the poison was injected he was still for almost five minutes, then he gave a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He opened and shut his mouth several times without making a sound as his stomach rose and fell. His awareness and terror cannot be known.

Ohio, which poisoned and killed McGuire, merely says "you're not entitled to a pain-free execution."

McGuire was executed for murder and his death was part of an admittedly experimental method of lethal injection.

Death is seldom pretty. I have watched autopsy after autopsy and read of the infinite ways people can die. I've seen a couple of deaths in person. Murderers often impose unspeakable suffering - they are also surprised how hard it is to kill someone. Murder must be punished. But the death penalty is not the punishment.

The death penalty is messy. And lethal injection tries to clean up the mess. The medical appearance of lethal injection - the healer as killer - is a show to make the killing seem like something it is not; painless and simple. The trouble is death cannot be made clean, painless or simple. No amount of makeup can hide the ugliness of death.

It's likely true that lethal injection is no worse than, say, hanging. But it's no better either. And at least hanging has the dignity of not hiding what is going on - there is no euphemism when someone is hanged by the neck until dead dead dead.

The death penalty is wrong because it (sometimes) kills the innocent, is applied to racial minorities far more frequently than justified and makes the State a stone cold killer. It doesn't bring back the dead. It doesn't deter murder. And it's inherent horror cannot be hidden by a bogus show of false medical technology.

1 comment:

The Rat said...

Here's the problem in my mind. We start with the statement that the death penalty is morally wrong, even if it is quick and painless. We congratulate ourselves on our humanity and we sentence people to life instead.

Oh, but life in prison without parole is also inhuman because it removes hope and it endangers prison workers who have to deal with prisoners who have literally nothing to lose. And so we congratulate ourselves on our humanity by giving even the worst murderer hope that he may one day go free.

And so one day we release the man whom we, in our humanity, have allowed to live. We hope that he does not kill again but we can't know and so we risk innocents for the sake of the guilty and our own self-serving humanity.

The death penalty isn't punishment. You're right on that. It's self-preservation, if not for ourselves then for those that may one day pay the price for our precious humanity.