Saturday, 17 February 2007

Florida death work

Florida death work

February 17. 2007

Presuming to sanitize the grotesque, dehumanizing work
of the executioner is a politically driven exercise in futility.

Was Angel Diaz's grotesque execution, simply, good enough for government work?

The official fantasy that lethal injection is a clean, painless, "human" method by which the state may end life was certainly exploded in December, when Diaz hung on for more than 20 minutes, gasping like a fish, and ultimately requiring a second dose of lethal chemicals, before he was finally "put down."

In the political "post-mortum" that has unfolded since former Gov. Jeb Bush suspended executions and appointed a special commission to find out what went wrong, it has been learned that the official state executioner was badly trained, and that the official state "medical professional" did not even remain in the chamber for the duration of the death work. The needles injected into Diaz went right through his veins and deposited a foot-long chemical "blister" in the tissue of his arms.

"They did exactly the wrong thing," Columbia University anesthesiologist Mark Heath said this week of the manner in which the three-drug "cocktail" was administered to Diaz. Apparently, even veterinarians won't use the state's "humane" process to put down animals.

We're not sure what's more astonishing about this past week's commission proceedings: That the state carries out its most somber duty - the taking of human life - in such haphazard and sloppy fashion? Or that this fact-finding exercise is intended to arrive at a new, improved and sanitized death ritual.

What will the commission recommend: That the official executioner be better trained? That the official medical professional stay in the death chamber until the "patient's" heart stops beating? That veterinarians be enlisted to ensure a proper putting down?

The absurdity of these proceedings would be laughable if the consequences were not so deadly serious. A central dilemma facing the state is that the official executioner really ought to be the medical professional. But a true medical professional, bound by the Hippocratic oath to "do no harm," would not perform a procedure intended, after all, to harm, not to cure.

There is no "humane" way to kill. Execution, whether delivered by electricity, chemical or the rope, is a debasing act that dehumanizes the state and, by extension, all of its citizens. The notion that, somehow, a flawless, painless, "humane" procedure will lessen the debasement is as grotesque as the clumsy performance that unfolded in Angel Diaz's death chamber.

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