Friday, January 17, 2014

Update: One life spared

Edgardo Cubas was scheduled to die last night for the 2002 rape and murder of a teenager in Houston. At the request of the Honduran embassy, a judge postponed Mr. Cubas' execution until May 29 in order for Mr. Cubas to undergo an examination to determine if he is competent enough to be murdered by the state.

Meanwhile, in Ohio, Dennis McGuire wasn't so lucky.

Mr. McGuire was also convicted and sentenced to die for a rape and murder. The only problem is that Ohio has been unable to obtain the necessary drugs to kill inmates due to restrictions on who the manufacturer will sell the drugs to. The solution in some states, such as Texas and Georgia, has been to use compounding pharmacies to produce the drugs - without the benefit of regulation. Ohio, on the other hand, opted for something different.

The State of Ohio decided that Mr. McGuire was a good test subject for their new two-drug execution protocol. Mr. McGuire became the first inmate murdered by a combination of midazolam, a sedative, and hydromorphone, an analgesic derived from morphine.

From the Los Angeles Times account of the execution:
McGuire was still for almost five minutes, then emitted a loud snort, as if snoring, and continued to make that sound over the next several minutes. He also soundlessly opened and shut his mouth several times as his stomach rose and fell. 
“Oh my God,” his daughter, Amber McGuire, said as she observed her father's final moments, the wire service reported. 
Bohnert, McGuire's attorney, said concerns about the manner of death had been confirmed by the sounds and the length of time it took for him to die.
“And more importantly, the people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names,” said Bohnert, who did not witness the execution.
No one knows what went on inside Mr. McGuire's body during that time. No one knows whether he suffered discomfort or pain. No one knows because no one has ever tested that drug combination.

And let's just stop and think about this for a little while. For fifteen minutes a roomful of people watched a man strapped down to a gurney not dying. The first drug in the cocktail is supposed to induce unconsciousness while the second drug is supposed to kill him like a drug overdose. Whatever was supposed to happen, however, didn't happen as it was supposed to. If that's not disturbing, I don't know what is.

I don't care what you think of the death penalty. I don't care how big a god complex you may have. You don't conduct medical experiments on human beings without their consent after being given all of the available information. As I wrote last week, arguing about the particular mode of execution is an exercise in futility. It is the imposition of the death penalty that is the problem.

The medical personnel who participated in the execution should all go before whatever panel in the State of Ohio oversees doctors and nurses. They should all be forced to explain how their role in the execution did not amount to a repudiation of the oath they took to do no harm. Whoever was in charge should also be forced to answer for his role in conducting medical experiments without having the informed consent of the test subject.

The death penalty causes folks to bend over backwards and do things they wouldn't ordinarily do in order to do the state's bidding. We have state officials defending premeditated murder. We have medical professionals rationalizing their role in killing people. We have judges who know damn well that innocent people get convicted. It's all an attempt to defend this notion that the state should have the right to decide who lives and who dies.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I do wonder what distinguished us from the NAZI's that did medical experiments on their captives. I would have been satisfied with this garbage being imprisoned forever. He can die on his own time.