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"Awake, paralyzed, unable to move, to breathe, while potassium burned through your veins"


Texecutioner: George W. Bush during his six years as governor of Texas presided over 152 executions, more than any other governor in the recent history of the United States.

Although George Bush claims that he was anguished by the decision to execute a female prisoner [Karla Faye Tucker] in Texas, in an interview in Talk magazine, writer Tucker Carlson described Bush mimicking the woman’s final plea for her life. “‘Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘don’t kill me.'”
– Time Magazine

Gary Ashwill over at Facing South points out the reality of lethal injection, as it is being practiced in the state death houses today. Talk about a “culture of life.” Your local veterinarian euthanizing a pet is less cruel. Note that Texas, the country’s high-volume executioner, didn’t participate in the study.

In recent decades, most states have rejected electrocution, firing squads, hanging, and gas chambers as cruel and unusual, leaving lethal injection the most popular method of execution in this country. But researchers in Florida and Virginia have found that 4 in 10 inmates executed by lethal injection may actually have been conscious during much of the procedure.

The first drug administered in most execution protocols is an anesthetic, sodium thiopental, which is often fatal by itself. The second drug is a muscle relaxant (pancuronium bromide) to paralyze muscles and lungs (but not brain or nerves). Last comes potassium chloride, a toxic agent that stops the heart and is understood to be excruciatingly painful.

The study, published in The Lancet, reviewed autopsy records of executed inmates from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arizona (Texas, the nation’s leading executioner, refused to cooperate with the study), and found that 43 percent had concentrations of anesthetic in their blood that would indicate they remained conscious. The medical journal editorialized, “It would be a cruel way to die: awake, paralyzed, unable to move, to breathe, while potassium burned through your veins.”
The muscle relaxant, pancuronium bromide (or Pavulon, the trade name), derived from curare and used in executions in 29 states, has become highly controversial in recent years. It has been banned in most of the country for use in euthanizing animals, meaning that in many states (Texas, Tennesseee, and South Carolina, for example) the drug is considered too cruel for killing animals but perfectly fine for killing humans. (Pavulon also appears to have become a popular murder weapon.)

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding