Lethal injection is the main form of death penalty in the United States. It is considered a priority in 26 of the 27 states that execute criminals.
As planned, the injection was supposed to be the most painless execution, hanging, execution, and a humane alternative to the electric chair. In fact, the controversy around this method has not subsided for years, with some considering it almost the most painful, and Thomas Arthur, who was convicted in 2017, even demanded that the injection be replaced with execution for him.
The injection itself may consist of one or three more common drugs. For example, Arkansas uses midazolam, vecuronium bromide, and potassium chloride. Each of these drugs is given in doses that can kill a person on their own, but each substance has its own drawbacks, and allegedly sequential administration allows them to mutually compensate. In other states, components may be replaced by functional equivalents, but the general principle remains the same.
Prior to injection, the prisoner is tied to a sofa and catheters are placed in the veins in both arms. First, midazolam, a sedative whose purpose is to deprive the prisoner of consciousness, is administered. A few seconds later, when the blood carries the substance to the brain, the person faints, but according to some reports, the prisoner may wake up in the middle of the execution.
An Associated Press reporter who oversaw the execution of Kenneth Williams in 2017 said that despite being given midazolam, the perpetrator twitched about 20 times and leaned on restraint straps.
It is considered mandatory to bring prisoners to an unconscious state, since the other two drugs should cause very unpleasant sensations. Vecuronium bromide is used in surgery to relax muscles so that their contraction does not interfere with the operation. Had the prisoner been conscious, he would have felt that his limbs had been removed one by one. When the paralysis reached the chest, the person would have difficulty breathing. “When you’re conscious, you feel like you’re suffocating,” said Stephen Morley, a toxicologist at Britain’s Royal Hospital Leicester.
Finally, when a person is unconscious and paralyzed, their heart still continues to beat. Therefore, potassium chloride is injected. Without anesthesia, this procedure would be extremely painful – it is believed that the liquid from this drug felt like fever emanating from the veins. Without muscle paralysis, potassium chloride causes severe contractions.
Finally, when the drug reaches the heart, it disrupts the balance of potassium and sodium ions necessary for the heart to beat. The pulse mixes and stops after a while.
If the whole procedure went according to plan, the person should die within 10 minutes of the start of the execution. For example, if a person is unconscious, staff close the curtains in front of the observer window and attempt to return to protocol procedure.
The death penalty is controversial in the US and some people are very hostile towards it. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to tarnish their reputations and often refuse to procure the ingredients for execution, making preparing a lethal injection for prison staff a difficult task. In 2016, it was reported that the top 20 pharmaceutical manufacturers, including Pfizer, strongly opposed the use of their products in this way.
Therefore, lethal injections do not have a permanent composition, for execution you need to choose what usually happens. It is also difficult to find a doctor who will develop administration protocols using new drugs. In 2010, in an explanatory memorandum to the court, representatives of the State of Ohio declarationstated that they could not find a single physician for these purposes, as participating in the death penalty would be against medical ethics and could lead to his expulsion from the medical community.
Despite this fierce opposition from some people, American society in general is more supportive of the death penalty. According to this questionnaire By 2021, 60 percent of the population support the death penalty for murder, and 27 percent “strongly support” it. 40 percent are against and 15 percent call themselves violent dissidents. The United States is one of the few developed countries where criminals are still actively executed, their example is quite an exception. Some researchers believe that US support for the death penalty is deeply rooted in American culture, shaped by the harsh conditions of the border and the Wild West. There, execution for serious crimes and ridding society of harmful members was a way to survive and restore order. Lethal injections are carried out by the USA, as well as by China and Vietnam.