Monday, January 07, 2008

Dying a Miserable Death

Quandry: If you execute a death row inmate, there is always a chance the execution goes wrong, and the executed dies a miserable death.

Of course, if you let the inmate live they might die a miserable death.

Although I am not a big fan of the death penalty, I find the argument that we should abolish the penalty because of the possibility the executed might feel pain unsatisfying.

Trying to make humanity in execution an absolute is absurd. I say that, if on average the pain suffered by the executed is less than what would be expected in a natural death, then we are being humane.

This case, where the Supreme Court might abolish the death penalty on an esoteric argument about absolutes, is a prime example of Judicial activism at its worse.

You can find absolutist positions and paradoxes in every conceivable topic. The pattern used in this case really is one where the court legislates from the bench.

Even though I am not big on the death penalty, the abolition of the death penalty needs to go through the legislative branch to be authentic. Death penalty opponents are wrong for trying to pursue their goals in the court. It is the wrong venue.

Our country is in a mess because our Courts spend their days trying to legislate and adminstrate policies. The legislature spends its days putting people on public trial and trying to micromanage the administration of policy. The administration spends its day writing legislation and trying to find ways to skirt court rulings.

Our government is failing because the branches of government spend their days trying to take on authorities that are best left with the other branches. Meanwhile they fail in accomplishing their own duties.


Scott Hinrichs said...

I wholeheartedly concur.

Ann Torrence said...

Please define "average" in your argument, "if on average the pain suffered by the executed is less than what would be expected in a natural death, then we are being humane." Are you really saying it is ok if one death is unspeakably painful if another is painless? The lethal injection methodology under litigation uses intravenous potassium chloride as the heart-stopping agent. I was once accidentally administered undiluted potassium chloride. Excruciating is hardly the word for the burning sensation, more like torture. A scientist could never get permission to test the protocol on a rat. Other, more humane options exist and are used for millions of pets in animal shelters every year. If the legislatures weren't so knuckleheaded about methodology, humane people wouldn't have an argument in the courts. No deserves to be subject to the risk of that much pain, and certainly not in my name as a citizen, thank you.

y-intercept said...

Ann, you are completely right in noting that our nation puts far too much faith in drugs.

The question at hand is if the Supreme Court should abolish the death penalty because execution involves pain.

This is both the wrong argument and the wrong venue for abolishing the death penalty. I elaborate on why I think this in a new post.

Historically, every time people come up with a new way to execute people that they think is humane, we end up executing large numbers of people.

Raising awareness of the inhumanity of lethal injection is a good thing.

Abolishing the death penalty, however, needs to happen because we reject execution, not simply because we reject the method of execution. Note the difference between the two statements:

"Execution is wrong because the person executed feels pain."

and "Execution is wrong because it is morally wrong."

The first statement has us reject the death penalty on a technicality ... a conditional statement. The second has us rejecting the method outright.

We tread dangerous grounds if we base the abolition of the death penalty on a technicality. We need to get to the second statement.

Above all, abolition of execution needs to happen through the legislature and not the court.

Even though we may feel strongly about an issue, if our society fails to argue against the injustice through the right means, then set ourselves up for a backlash.