If you worship the ground that the good Dr. Maddow walks upon (as I do), you know that the last 3 weeks she's been leading nearly every night with the story of the horribly failed execution in Oklahoma some weeks ago. The failure has had a chilling effect on the entire 'industry', as no prisoner has been put to death since.
Whether or not you believe in the death penalty, this entire affair has gotten me thinking about the mechanics of the thing. We humans are actually quite easy to kill, and many millions of us have gone to untimely ends over the course of our history.
I feel like I may have a little more insight into that than some of you...since I have perhaps had what could be considered a "near-death" experience quite recently. (Oh, there was no tunnel of light or holding hands with my deceased grandmother, but had my appendix burst two years ago, I'm convinced I wouldn't be sitting here right now, but I digress.)
You know I've been a blood and platelet donor for a long time...it wasn't lost on me that every time I reclined upon the gurney and two teams worked on getting lines into both arms for the procedure, it wasn't unlike what a condemned man might have undergone in the execution chamber while being prepped for the drugs.
Humans can be killed in many ways. Long ago, we essentially tortured the condemned to death. Things like the Brazen Bull, the breaking wheel, or drawing and quartering can attest to that. Hanging, beheading, the garrote, and a whole host of other methods
showcase our endless creativity in killing each other.
It really wasn't until the last hundred years or so that executing prisoners "humanely" became more of the focus rather than prolonging the suffering of the condemned. First the guillotine, then long drop (hanging), electric chairs, and indeed lethal injection, there's been "progress" towards reducing the pain and suffering of the executionee.
But do they? Nobody has ever come back to tell us what it felt like. The electric chair allegedly short-circuits your entire nervous system at the first charge so you're not supposed to feel a thing, but for all we know the condemned feels every one of those 2,000 volts searing through every cell in their body.
There are quicker ways to kill someone, but most of them are messy
. The guillotine works this way; beheading is pretty damn instantaneous, but what do you do with the maimed body and the entire volume of blood that's going to be everywhere when it's all over?
As for me...well, I suppose we are all fascinated with death in one way or another. Personally, I've always thought that poison gas might be an interesting way to go, but conversely I list drowning among my most primal of fears. Which after a rather convoluted blog finally gets me to my point.
After my cancer diagnosis, I've had a lot of noxious chemicals pumped into me, and a number of treatments that required sedation in one form or another.
This is an endoscope:
I suppose it's called that because it goes in your rear end; this is how the gastroenterologist gets to look inside your colon for polyps and other diseases. I just had mine done recently, and this is not anything you want to be able to feel.
The sedative of choice for this procedure is Fentanyl
; it's a fast-acting narcotic. I had a line put in by the nice phlebotomist, which they kept open with a saline drip, and then I went on to the endoscopy suite for the procedure. The nurse gave me my Fentanyl, and I made a conscious effort to stay alert for as long as I could. To no avail; perhaps five minutes later, time ceased to exist and I woke up about 40 minutes later in recovery.
During that time period, anything could have been done to me and I would have never noticed. Had I been a condemned man, any number of drugs, or a bullet, or drowning, or who-knows-what could have happened in those 40 minutes with no "unnecessary pain" inflicted upon my person. It really seems to me that all the potions and procedures that are done in the execution chamber are really for show, when one drug followed by poison could have done me in in just a few minutes.
That method - sedative followed by poison, has actually been used in the past. On May 1, 1945, deep inside the Fuehrerbunker, Joe and Magda Goebbels decided that they did not want to live in a world without National Socialism. More importantly, they decided that their children shouldn't either. An SS doctor injected the children with enough morphine to render them unconscious and oblivious, then their own mother crushed cyanide capsules in their mouths. It was all over quickly.
It's a sad fact that one of the most vile Nazis had his own children killed with more compassion and care than condemned prisoners in these United States.