Ohio today performed their first execution with a new two drug cocktail consisting of Midazolam and Hydromorphone. Now, the reason for the experimental new two drug cocktail is because of the unavailability of Pentobarbital. The question is what drugs were in the older, classic three drug cocktail, and which drug was the active agent that induced death?
Well, the missing drug is plain old generic Potassium Chloride. At the doses used in lethal injection it swiftly depolarizes cardiac muscle tissue swiftly inducing asystole which is followed shortly by death. In classic lethal injection the role of Pentobarbital was to keep the ordeal humane. Midazolam and Hydromorphone indeed seem to make adequate, or even superior replacements to Pentobaritol in the role of promoting comfort through this ordeal. What neither of those drugs can provide though is a swift cardiac death like Potassium Chloride, the stuff for which there was never a shortage. The stuff for which there is not only no shortage, but a plethora of resellers, distributors, and stockpiles destined for use in any number of injuries.
The lack of any agent that could induce swift cardiac death in Ohio lead to a shit show by which the condemned met death in a manner precisely consistent with what could have been predicted from the drugs in his cocktail. They died of an opioid overdose, something which exceedingly common, but sufficiently tortuous that it can not be the sort of death a state inflicts if it desires any claim to authority on moral grounds. Because of what it is the State can't appreciate Vengeance, that some sort of governance is a necessary evil prevents the state from being allowed feelings that would allow it to appreciate Vengeance. The machinery of States, even a bubbling shitpit like Ohio,1 are still operated by what may be considered persons though, for some definitions of person.
The State has always engaged in forms of violence in order to promote or enforce law and order.2 In modern society acts of violence most commonly take the form of fines,3 rehabilitation,4 and imprisonment.5 In extreme circumstances States engage in capital punishment, violence against one's life. Some measure of violence on the part of the state seems necessary for civilized society to continue.
In the case of capital punishment there were in the past ways of execution that were more humane than what happened today in Ohio. Take as an example the firing squad, or the gallows, either method done properly ensures a humane death and strong sanctions against errant executioners can provide an incredible incentive for the proper execution of these procedures. There were less humane styles of execution too like drawing and quartering as well as immolation. Let us focus on the humane form though. Why might they have fallen out of favor? I would hazard a guess that over time States have lost their appetite for appearing to commit violence, even though their entire claim to authority is their ability to commit violence. You know, that Teddy Roosevelt big stick stuff.6
So how in modern times could a State arrange to commit capital punishment, the ultimate state violence, while doing so humanely? Let us go beyond that. How could a state commit violence against the life of a condemned prisoner in the most just way? Given tight Government budgets of late I'd suggest a captive bolt device followed by exsanguination. For the sake of justice I support the executioners to be the last two persons making decisions supporting the execution of the condemned. In the United States, in most cases I imagine executions would then be performed by a combination of a local state governor and a judge, but in federal cases may end up having to be performed by the President himself.7 Situations where a panel of judges made the last or second to last decision might present logistical challenges. Would they have to draw straws? Would they have to perform their part of the act in concert?
- The place so unlovable every one else dumped their waste there until their rivers were flammable. [↩]
- I am entirely unconvinced that order is in any way worthy or promotion or enforcement for the sake or order as such. Order and efforts at its preservation seem more harmful than disorder. The charge in most jurisdictions referred to as disorderly conduct seems to be immoral coverall people operating organs of the state use mostly as a means to inflict violence upon people who have annoyed them personally or engage in political speech or actions they find distasteful. Similarly I oppose state action that punishes political speech no matter how brain damaged. [↩]
- Violence against one's wallet [↩]
- Violence against one's dignity and rights to self determination [↩]
- Violence against one's liberty [↩]
- If it was possible to go into the past and price risk, I would have bet he took Cuba because he was interested in the leather scene there. [↩]
- Imagine all of the "Barak Obama Gansta" memes that might spawn from him holding the captive bolt pistol to the back of a condemned prisoner. [↩]