Human Rights Forum - Lethal Injection

16th November 2017

News, Student news

The ‘mythology’ that Lethal Injection is a humane form of execution was exploded by Reprieve Director Maya Foa in a talk to Wadham Human Rights Forum.

As it becomes harder for US states to access the necessary drugs to carry out the death penalty using Lethal Injections, Foa is hopeful that US opinions towards the death penalty will change as alternative methods of execution, such as gas or firing squad, appear less humane.

Reprieve’s Stop Lethal Injection Project (SLIP) helps pharmaceutical manufacturers, investors, and regulators prevent the misuse of medicines in the execution of prisoners.

Between 1976 and 2016 the US has executed 1442 people by lethal injection. These executions are carried out using medicines originally designed to save and improve the lives of patients. Because these drugs were not designed to kill, and are administered in experimental dosages by wardens who are not medically trained, these executions are frequently botched.

Foa described the three drug cocktail designed to end life. The first drug is an anaesthetic which aims to put the patient to sleep. The second is a paralytic which stops movement, and the third stops the heart.

Reprieve has found evidence of a number of ‘botched’ executions, where subjects were not put to sleep, and where the drugs were administered and subjects were still alive.

“We’ve got to a stage where people on death row are asking for different methods, like the electric chair or firing squads,” she said.

Foa feels that the US is reaching crunch point where states are unable to access the necessary drugs are wondering what to do. With some resorting to illegal drugs and some investigating alternative methods of inflicting the death penalty, she is hopeful that this could signal the end of the death penalty in the US within the next few years.

Maya Foa was introduced by Warden of Wadham College, Ken Macdonald QC. The Wadham Human Rights Forum is a continuing series of lectures, seminars and discussions hosted by the Wadham College Law Society and open to all.

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