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  1. #1
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    OK governor signs bill allowing nitrogen inert gas execution

    What do you think about this new method of execution? I would like to request that we keep the discussion to the benefits and drawbacks of inert gas execution, and not get into a debate on whether or not the death penalty is right or wrong.

    Some links and references:

    http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/oklahoma-...gen-executions

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inert_gas_asphyxiation

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_a...h_penalty.html

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/...0N82EF20150417

  2. #2
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    K_Z, with respect, I think it's more important what YOU think, since you are the expert in the field.

    As for myself, if we must kill people (sorry, couldn't resist), then I think we should do so as painlessly as possible. If inert gas does the trick, then so be it.

  3. #3
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    benefits and drawbacks of inert gas execution?

    From wiki link, seems medical /physiological aspect is quite straight forward.
    A couple deep breaths and in a few minutes, it's over.
    I gather not expensive. Supposedly does not require highly trained med ppl to administer, no pain to person receiving.

    But then 'easy, new, cheap solutions' proposed are not always all they're cracked up to be.
    K_Z, maybe you could offer some thoughts, esp re technical aspect, please? Thx in adv.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova View Post
    K_Z, with respect, I think it's more important what YOU think, since you are the expert in the field.

    As for myself, if we must kill people (sorry, couldn't resist), then I think we should do so as painlessly as possible. If inert gas does the trick, then so be it.
    If we must allow the state to carry out executions, then I agree.

    If we make the executions as horrific as the crimes for which those sentenced are guilty of, how does that make us any better than the criminals?

    Sorry, trying to respect your request to not turn it into a capitol punishment debate and yet offer an opinion about this method. I hope I did okay!

  5. #5
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    First, I'll disclose that I support capital punishment.

    I also abhor incompetence, and what we have seen recently with some of the more "prolonged" executions is incompetence at a high level with the medical aspects and monitoring of the condemned that have lead to infiltrated IV lines, multiple attempts at IV access, inadequate monitoring of the inmate, and generally very poor decision making when things don’t go smoothly. That is a fixable set of circumstances, IMO. But I wont digress more about that, because I really do think inert gas asphyxiation is a very good and humane method-- in many ways superior to lethal injection.

    So, having said that, I have been thinking a lot about delivery mechanisms for the nitrogen asphyxiation. I actually do not support a "flooded room" delivery method, similar to the cyanide gas chamber, for a number of reasons. I also don't think a mask delivery system is ideal-- for a number of reasons.

    What I currently think would be ideal for the prisoner, the corrections execution team, and the observers, is a modified design of a device that we used to call a "cakebox" hood for newborns.

    Here are a few links:

    http://www.utahmed.com/disposahood.htm

    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=...hood&FORM=IGRE

    Obviously, it would have to be manufactured to adult sizing, as well as have a flange creating an airtight seal around the chest or neck sufficient to contain the nitrogen without entraining room air. I think this would be the safest for the execution team, and permit continuous observation of the condemned. It also avoids the need to secure a mask tightly to the prisoner, and allows them some movement of their mouth, face, etc. It also permits the condemned to see their loved ones, the family of their victim, the warden, etc.

    The "hood" is a much smaller volume than an entire room, and would not need to be "flushed" before the execution team could safely enter. The amount of nitrogen in the hood would be sufficient to humanely asphyxiate the inmate, but would safely disperse and dilute in the vast volume of room air when removed from the inmate. It would use far less of the nitrogen resources than flooding the chamber/ room, also. (Cheaper.) Nitrogen is widely available, eliminating the issues with obtaining pharmaceuticals.

    I don't like the idea of flooding a room/ chamber, because of the danger to the execution team. Although it would certainly work well. The need to install costly "flush" systems would be eliminated with a hood system.

    I think a hood could be manufactured (probably outside of the U.S.) to allow the condemned to be executed in either a restrained sitting position, or a supine position. That is beneficial, because a choice could be extended to the condemned inmate to go out sitting up (some breathe easier in that position), or laying down.

    Inert gas asphyxiation is VERY fast-- read the descriptions of the workers who unknowingly entered the flooded chambers of the space vehicles. I think it's potentially very humane, dignified for the inmate, avoids the sensations of choking or suffocating, and leaves a "palatable" observation experience for the staff and watchers. It also leaves a corpse that is intact without trauma-- and there is some social "acceptance" value to that, as well as for the family of the inmate.

    I especially like that IV access by marginally trained personnel is avoided. The inmate could be offered a valium or Xanax tablet to swallow ahead of time, if desired.

    In summary, quick, cheap, easy, non-messy, not too gruesome, hard to screw up, and can be done by people with no medical experience at all.

  6. #6
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    Oh, and the sensation of euphoria experienced by the inmate as hypoxia sets in is a humane bonus that may increase acceptance by the voting population of citizens, as well as legislators, and death penalty proponents AND opponents.

    Reminds me of science fiction stories like Logan's Run and Soylent Green-- rituals that induce euphoria as the person dies. Absent the sociopolitical commentary of the science fiction.

    Probably some families of victims would not be pleased that the inmate is offered a pleasant exit, but I don't care at all. Let them have a little euphoria. They still end up executed.

  7. #7
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    Here is a youtube video clipped from a British documentary called "How to Kill a Human Being", that shows the behavior of pigs. The pigs actually CHOOSE to return to the nitrogen asphyxiation chamber. The whole 5-6 part documentary is available on youtube-- I'll try to link.


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  9. #9
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    As I mentioned upthread, I've been wondering about the delivery mechanism proposed-- whether flooded room or chamber, or mask, etc.

    http://www.vox.com/2015/3/27/8301357...thal-injection

    Why Oklahoma is using nitrogen gas as a backup to lethal injections

    The gas will be applied through a mask or medical-grade oxygen tent worn around the prisoner's face, according to the Atlantic's Jack Shuler. It's expected the gas will kill a prisoner within minutes.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...humane/388249/

    He says nitrogen-induced hypoxia is well-researched, although the ideal delivery system for an execution has not yet been established. Two ideas include a medical-grade oxygen tent around the head or a facemask similar to those used by firefighters.

    The condemned person might not even know when the “the switch to pure nitrogen occurs, instead he would simply lose consciousness about fifteen seconds after the switch was made,” he added. “Approximately thirty seconds later, he would stop producing brain waves, and the heart would stop beating about two to three minutes after that.”
    But nitrogen hypoxia would likely not produce the gruesome deaths that resulted from cyanide gas executions. Copeland says that “you don’t have to worry about someone reacting differently.” The condemned person would feel slightly intoxicated before losing consciousness and ultimately dying.
    If the bill becomes law and Oklahoma successfully executes someone using this method, it could spread from to state very quickly, Dieter says. Older methods like firing squads are a little too brutal for the American public, but something new could be accepted. If so, he says, “it could lead to an awkward spurt of executions.”
    BBM above.

    Interesting Time article, with more back story on Michael Copeland (law professor who is a proponent behind OK's bills for a new execution method.)

    http://time.com/3749879/nitrogen-gas...hal-injection/

    Despite the unanswered questions, more states appear to be considering nitrogen as they plan for a future without lethal injection. Copeland says he has been in touch with corrections officials in several states, some of which he says are “ahead of us in terms of protocol.” Copeland would not disclose the states.

    Oklahoma Sen. Anthony Sykes, who sponsored the nitrogen bill in the state Senate, says Louisiana and Texas have both shown interest in the method. Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc told a legislative committee last year that “nitrogen is the next big thing” and described it as a “painless way to go.” In February, the state’s corrections department issued a report recommending nitrogen hypoxia as an alternative method of execution.
    And I finally found Michael Copeland's 14 page co-authored study:

    https://localtvkfor.files.wordpress....en-hypoxia.pdf
    Last edited by K_Z; 04-18-2015 at 03:47 PM.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by K_Z View Post
    First, I'll disclose that I support capital punishment.

    I also abhor incompetence, and what we have seen recently with some of the more "prolonged" executions is incompetence at a high level with the medical aspects and monitoring of the condemned that have lead to infiltrated IV lines, multiple attempts at IV access, inadequate monitoring of the inmate, and generally very poor decision making when things don’t go smoothly. That is a fixable set of circumstances, IMO. But I wont digress more about that, because I really do think inert gas asphyxiation is a very good and humane method-- in many ways superior to lethal injection.

    So, having said that, I have been thinking a lot about delivery mechanisms for the nitrogen asphyxiation. I actually do not support a "flooded room" delivery method, similar to the cyanide gas chamber, for a number of reasons. I also don't think a mask delivery system is ideal-- for a number of reasons.

    What I currently think would be ideal for the prisoner, the corrections execution team, and the observers, is a modified design of a device that we used to call a "cakebox" hood for newborns.

    Here are a few links:

    http://www.utahmed.com/disposahood.htm

    http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=...hood&FORM=IGRE

    Obviously, it would have to be manufactured to adult sizing, as well as have a flange creating an airtight seal around the chest or neck sufficient to contain the nitrogen without entraining room air. I think this would be the safest for the execution team, and permit continuous observation of the condemned. It also avoids the need to secure a mask tightly to the prisoner, and allows them some movement of their mouth, face, etc. It also permits the condemned to see their loved ones, the family of their victim, the warden, etc.

    The "hood" is a much smaller volume than an entire room, and would not need to be "flushed" before the execution team could safely enter. The amount of nitrogen in the hood would be sufficient to humanely asphyxiate the inmate, but would safely disperse and dilute in the vast volume of room air when removed from the inmate. It would use far less of the nitrogen resources than flooding the chamber/ room, also. (Cheaper.) Nitrogen is widely available, eliminating the issues with obtaining pharmaceuticals.

    I don't like the idea of flooding a room/ chamber, because of the danger to the execution team. Although it would certainly work well. The need to install costly "flush" systems would be eliminated with a hood system.

    I think a hood could be manufactured (probably outside of the U.S.) to allow the condemned to be executed in either a restrained sitting position, or a supine position. That is beneficial, because a choice could be extended to the condemned inmate to go out sitting up (some breathe easier in that position), or laying down.

    Inert gas asphyxiation is VERY fast-- read the descriptions of the workers who unknowingly entered the flooded chambers of the space vehicles. I think it's potentially very humane, dignified for the inmate, avoids the sensations of choking or suffocating, and leaves a "palatable" observation experience for the staff and watchers. It also leaves a corpse that is intact without trauma-- and there is some social "acceptance" value to that, as well as for the family of the inmate.

    I especially like that IV access by marginally trained personnel is avoided. The inmate could be offered a valium or Xanax tablet to swallow ahead of time, if desired.

    In summary, quick, cheap, easy, non-messy, not too gruesome, hard to screw up, and can be done by people with no medical experience at all.
    I remember we had this conversation a little while ago. Putting my cards on the table, I oppose the death penalty on principle and think it should be replaced with whole life sentences. I don't see what this rigmarole adds to society. But to comment on the specific proposal, I don't like the concept of the hood, psychologically. I think a chamber (possibly with a window), where the prisoner would be able to talk to those outside and wouldn't be aware of exactly when the gas was being pumped in, would be more humane.


  11. #11
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    From K-Z post:
    "http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/...humane/388249/ ....""If the bill becomes law and Oklahoma successfully executes someone using this method, it could spread from to state very quickly, Dieter says. Older methods like firing squads are a little too brutal for the American public, but something new could be accepted." [changed bolding]

    Scuse me for being puzzled about idea - American public -in gen- think that firing squads are too brutal.
    Americans who watch how many TV shooting deaths per week, month or year?
    Okay, those aren't real, but many are seen up close, in color, done randomly or for petty reasons, and
    rarely followed by punishment or even follow through in the criminal justice system.
    Yet Dieter says the Am. public who believe, after all the checks and balances,
    procedural safeguards, and typically decades passing from criminal offense to trial to execution of sentence -
    find a execution by firing squad death too brutal??? Agreeing that few or some genuinely believe this.

    Is it possible some, many, most, or virtually all the debate about methods of executing death sentences
    is a smoke screen for argument against the death penalty, period?
    Is the method-controversy anything more than hair splitting?
    Not personally commenting here about capital punishment, one way or the other.

    W capital punishment as part of our judicial system, seems like the more options the better.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Supernovae View Post
    I remember we had this conversation a little while ago. Putting my cards on the table, I oppose the death penalty on principle and think it should be replaced with whole life sentences. I don't see what this rigmarole adds to society. But to comment on the specific proposal, I don't like the concept of the hood, psychologically. I think a chamber (possibly with a window), where the prisoner would be able to talk to those outside and wouldn't be aware of exactly when the gas was being pumped in, would be more humane.
    K_Z has given us a pragmatic list of the problems and dangers of flooding a chamber. His/hers was a logical response, I think, not a moral exploration.

    That being said, I agree with you, Supernovae. And I think K_Z's proposed hood--while sensible--might backfire politically because it looks so barbaric (not unlike the lethal injection table).

    I could not agree more with you that capital punishment is always wrong, but I'm not willing to make death row inmates suffer to dramatize my point. You are right: the principle is the same, however painless the method. So as long as we have the d.p. (and let's face it, it ain't going anywhere fast), let's not make its victims suffer unduly.

    We can still argue against the d.p. on the ground that our justice system is anything but just.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by al66pine View Post
    ...Is it possible some, many, most, or virtually all the debate about methods of executing death sentences
    is a smoke screen for argument against the death penalty, period?
    Is the method-controversy anything more than hair splitting?
    Not personally commenting here about capital punishment, one way or the other.

    W capital punishment as part of our judicial system, seems like the more options the better.
    The more options the better? Including staking convicts on top of ant hills, breaking convicts on the rack and injecting convicts with ebola to watch the effects?

    I think k_z, supernovae and I have been clear in separating the issue of capital punishment per se from the issue of how we kill death-row convicts as painlessly as possible.

    Do some anti-d.p. activists use the constitutional ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" in their effort to end the death penalty? Sure. (And good for them.) Basically SCOTUS has ruled that execution is not "cruel and unusual", but the method of execution may be. That leaves the method of killing as the only aspect open to legal challenge.

    But many of us find no conflict between opposing the d.p. in general and ALSO opposing painful and drawn-out methods of execution.To me, it's perfectly logical to oppose the latter if you oppose the former. There's no subterfuge involved.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nova View Post
    The more options the better? Including staking convicts on top of ant hills, breaking convicts on the rack and injecting convicts with ebola to watch the effects?
    I think k_z, supernovae and I have been clear in separating the issue of capital punishment per se from the issue of how we kill death-row convicts as painlessly as possible.
    bbm sbm.

    My apologies for failing to specify more options are better, but excluding painful and drawn-out methods of execution.
    No ant hills, no racks, no ebola injections, and excluding myriad other methods.
    Sincerely.



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