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DrRocket
2010-Jun-13, 03:39 PM
This thread is NOT intended to debate the morality, effectiveness, or any societal implications whatever, of the death penalty.

I have a technical question, and seek a technical opinion. A medical opinion.

Later this week the state of Utah is scheduled to execute a convicted criminal. The criminal has opted to be executed by firing squad.

There is a medical opinion here (http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_15279879?source=pkg), not uncontested, that the firing squad is more technically humane (humane given that an execution will occur) than other methods, including the common technique of lethal injection. I would be interested in the opinion of those members with real medical expertise as to whether or not this is a valid stance from a medical perspective.

korjik
2010-Jun-13, 04:51 PM
Isnt that assuming that the firing squad dosent miss?

Getting shot half a dozen times and have nothing instantly fatal hit would seem to be a good deal less humane.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-13, 05:13 PM
That's happened twice in the recorded history of modern executions.

Compare that to the number of botched executions by lethal injection. Note incidentally that no medical professionals are involved when performing execution by lethal injection except possibly to make a declaration of death, so there's a not insignificant risk that the needles are inserted wrong, just as there's no real guarantee that each of the three injections have had the intended effect before going on to the next.

ravens_cry
2010-Jun-13, 05:32 PM
I didn't know a criminal could get to choose their method of execution.
Is death by firing squad a common choice?

01101001
2010-Jun-13, 05:43 PM
I didn't know a criminal could get to choose their method of execution.
Is death by firing squad a common choice?

It was at least an option in Utah. No longer for new cases. It's not a common choice, I think, because it makes the news, and this is just the second time ever I've heard of that request. Edit: upon further review, third.

DrRocket
2010-Jun-13, 05:57 PM
Isnt that assuming that the firing squad dosent miss?

Getting shot half a dozen times and have nothing instantly fatal hit would seem to be a good deal less humane.

In this case that is a safe assumption.

TJMac
2010-Jun-13, 06:38 PM
It would be interesting to know the exact procedure used for a firing squad. How many shooters? Do they all have live ammo, or is the myth of only one in the squad having a live round, do no one knows who actually "killed" the condemned? How are the members of the squad instructed to aim?

Would it make more sense to have the guns mounted on benches, pre-aimed, and merely place the condemned in the kill-zone?

I find the OP question very interesting, although I have no expertise in the medical field in which to answer.

DrRocket
2010-Jun-13, 06:55 PM
It would be interesting to know the exact procedure used for a firing squad. How many shooters? Do they all have live ammo, or is the myth of only one in the squad having a live round, do no one knows who actually "killed" the condemned? How are the members of the squad instructed to aim?

Would it make more sense to have the guns mounted on benches, pre-aimed, and merely place the condemned in the kill-zone?

I find the OP question very interesting, although I have no expertise in the medical field in which to answer.

The exact procedure has not been discussed, but here (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_15279853?source=pkg)is a discussion of the situation for a past execution. I am not sure how many are on the actual firing squad that is coming up, but I do know that all but one will have live ammunition. Apparently the squad members all aim for the heart.

IsaacKuo
2010-Jun-13, 07:02 PM
There have historically been all sorts of different methods of execution by firing squad. One practice was to load all but one of the guns with a live round, the other one being loaded with a blank (no bullet).

There have been attempts to make the process more mechanical, including a mechanized system where the guns are mounted to a bench and fired by a string.

Personally, I think if you're going to have the firing squad, then it should be done with shotguns. Unlike rifle or pistol hits, shotgun blasts at point blank range are pretty close to 100% fatal.

DrRocket
2010-Jun-13, 07:09 PM
There have historically been all sorts of different methods of execution by firing squad. One practice was to load all but one of the guns with a live round, the other one being loaded with a blank (no bullet).

There have been attempts to make the process more mechanical, including a mechanized system where the guns are mounted to a bench and fired by a string.

Personally, I think if you're going to have the firing squad, then it should be done with shotguns. Unlike rifle or pistol hits, shotgun blasts at point blank range are pretty close to 100% fatal.

Several high velocity rifle bullets to the heart is even more certain that a shotgun blast. In the case of multiple rifles you get the effects of both the rifle's higher lethality per projectile and the multiple projectiles of a shotgun.

But the question was not the comparison of different firing squad techniques but rather the comparison of a firing squad with lethal injection or something else.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-13, 07:10 PM
Shotguns fail for the same reason head shots aren't used even though they're more certainly lethal and faster killing.
It leaves a badly mangled corpse.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jun-13, 07:24 PM
While not a medical professional, I've done some reading on the subject. If it were me and I had the choice, I'd go for decapitation as performed in Saudi Arabia. Done properly, it may well be the most humane way to execute someone. Lethal injection works well most of the time but there are instances where they have a hard time getting a good IV going. There is also some question about whether the person being executed feels any pain during the procedure. A firing squad aims for the heart. Even if they hit it, there is evidence that the person feels a good deal of pain before passing out. Of all the currently used execution techniques, hanging is probably the worst way to go. If you're lucky, you'll get a broken neck and be knocked out instantly. If you're unlucky (or if you're hung like they do in Iran where they hoist you), you'll die slowly and with a lot of pain. AFAIK, no one is using the electric chair any more.

Nereid
2010-Jun-13, 07:36 PM
It would be interesting to know the exact procedure used for a firing squad. How many shooters? Do they all have live ammo, or is the myth of only one in the squad having a live round, do no one knows who actually "killed" the condemned? How are the members of the squad instructed to aim?

Would it make more sense to have the guns mounted on benches, pre-aimed, and merely place the condemned in the kill-zone?

I find the OP question very interesting, although I have no expertise in the medical field in which to answer.(bold added)

IIRC, that is how it's done in some countries, e.g. Thailand.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-13, 07:44 PM
That makes it highly likely that he's going to be killed by a lung shot rather than a heart shot since there's no way to adjust for movement.

DrRocket
2010-Jun-13, 07:54 PM
.... A firing squad aims for the heart. Even if they hit it, there is evidence that the person feels a good deal of pain before passing out. ...

That is contrary to the opinion in the link I provided in the OP. What is this evidence ? This is really the question that was posed, and this the sort of thing that I was looking for in an answer, but some support for the assertion is needed.

Paul Beardsley
2010-Jun-13, 08:08 PM
I do remember a documentary some years ago about an executioner who opined that the electric chair was the most humane way to execute someone because the first shock burned out the nervous system, and so there was no pain during the subsequent electrocution. He said that it was the method he would choose if he was sentenced to death.

However, he lost all credibility in the second half of the documentary when he turned out to be a very vocal holocaust denier.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Jun-13, 08:28 PM
There's been several cases of people surviving initial application of the electric chair, requiring multiple applications, leaving people alive but badly burned for a while.
Going by statistics, it looks like shooting has the lowest failure rate, so even though the pain might be more, the risk of experiencing it for long is less.

Larry Jacks
2010-Jun-13, 10:51 PM
That is contrary to the opinion in the link I provided in the OP. What is this evidence ? This is really the question that was posed, and this the sort of thing that I was looking for in an answer, but some support for the assertion is needed.

Gary Gilmore was the first US prisoner executed following the Supreme Court's reversal of a moritorium back in the 1970s. He was executed by firing squad in Utah. From this source (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/shooting%20US.html):

He was tied to an old chair (see photo) and had a white target pinned over his heart and a black hood covering his face (this is on the back of the screen behind the chair in the photo). After the death warrant had been read to him he was asked if there was anything he wanted to say and uttered the famous line "Lets do it." The firing squad were positioned behind a screen some 30 feet from Gilmore. Dr. Serge M. Moore, Utah’s Chief Medical Examiner told reporters that all four bullets had hit Gillmore’s heart within two inches of each other and that he had taken two minutes to die. Reporters present at the execution noted movement in his body for 15 – 20 seconds after the shots were fired and that he continued breathing during this time.

It's the brain that registers pain, not the heart. Shooting someone in the heart does not cause instant brain death so they likely will feel pain before passing out due to oxygen starvation, perhaps 15-30 seconds. That's the best case scenario. In the military execution of Private Eddie Slovik (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Slovik) in 1945, the first volley didn't kill him. They were about to reload to shoot him again when he finally died several minutes after being shot.

IsaacKuo
2010-Jun-13, 11:11 PM
Shotguns fail for the same reason head shots aren't used even though they're more certainly lethal and faster killing.
It leaves a badly mangled corpse.
Is this really an important factor, in and of itself? Or is it that bullet riddled bodies are associated with criminal and evil regime executions?

ravens_cry
2010-Jun-13, 11:16 PM
Is this really an important factor, in and of itself? Or is it that bullet riddled bodies are associated with criminal and evil regime executions?
I imagine, this is my theory anyway, it's important for any next of kin. Even the best morticians would have trouble reconstruct a face that's had a bullet put through it.

01101001
2010-Jun-13, 11:31 PM
Is this really an important factor, in and of itself?

"In and of itself" has little meaning here. I expect it is one of a large number of very important considerations to the decision-makers who pick the means and methods. In a democratic society, they have a lot of aspects to consider, among them impacts upon the affected parties: the executed, the executioners, the witnesses, the families, the victims, the judiciary, society at large, and, of course, the decision-makers themselves.

Warren Platts
2010-Jun-14, 12:10 AM
This is a disgusting thread and it should be locked and you all should be ashamed for even participating in it. This thread perfectly illustrates in a nutshell the extreme danger of "scientific" thinking--as if by applying "science", we can make the application of violence against fellow human beings any less barbaric than it was back in the days of Rome. Who do you think you're kidding? What's more "humane": Zykon B or plain old carbon monoxide? Forget it. This is scientism at its worst. Better off just giving them the William Wallace Braveheart treatment. At least that way everybody knows what's really going on.

Masking reality behind a facade of "scientically humane execution method" is evil.

Medical "evaluation"... My Language. Unbelievable...

IsaacKuo
2010-Jun-14, 12:34 AM
Back in the days of Rome, there were various methods of torture to death which were certainly less pleasant for the victim than a bullet in the back of the head. Zykon B was quicker than carbon monoxide; the more important factor was that it was cheaper and more efficient.

Whether or not the death penalty is inherently barbaric is a political issue and thus beyond the scope of BAUT (I have a definite opinion of whether or not the death penalty should be a part of any civilized society, but this opinion doesn't stop me from considering the best way to do it).

Either way, there are certainly differences in the level and duration of pain and suffering in different methods of applying the death penalty.

pzkpfw
2010-Jun-14, 01:20 AM
Warren Platts, if you have an issue with a thread or a post, the proper way to deal with it is to report it for consideration. Masked bad language ("***") happens to be a very specific rule violation. Not again please.
IsaacKuo, please don't take the bait offered by others. (Other than that, your post is a little off-topic (as are others) but does cover why Warrens objection is out of place).


I remind everyone to read post one, where the question is about "...that the firing squad is more technically humane..".

This is not the Q&A forum so I wouldn't normally expect the specific question to be quite so strictly the focus of the entire thread - however, it is clear that this topic can very easily go off the rails - so please everybody just stick to the question.

Edit: e.g. it's probably best for the "...than other methods..." part of the question not to be used to start listing all the various ways in which someone might be executed. I hope that noone would find that that hamstrings (oops) the conversation unduely.

DrRocket
2010-Jun-14, 01:33 AM
Warren Platts, if you have an issue with a thread or a post, the proper way to deal with it is to report it for consideration. Masked bad language ("***") happens to be a very specific rule violation. Not again please.
IsaacKuo, please don't take the bait offered by others. (Other than that, your post is a little off-topic (as are others) but does cover why Warrens objection is out of place).


I remind everyone to read post one, where the question is about "...that the firing squad is more technically humane..".

This is not the Q&A forum so I wouldn't normally expect the specific question to be quite so strictly the focus of the entire thread - however, it is clear that this topic can very easily go off the rails - so please everybody just stick to the question.

Edit: e.g. it's probably best for the "...than other methods..." part of the question not to be used to start listing all the various ways in which someone might be executed. I hope that noone would find that that hamstrings (oops) the conversation unduely.

I would have started this in Q&A, but the question is not space or astronomy related. Should it have been started there instead ? The intent is narrowly defined.

Swift
2010-Jun-14, 02:04 AM
I would have started this in Q&A, but the question is not space or astronomy related. Should it have been started there instead ? The intent is narrowly defined.
No, Science & Technology is the correct place.

But please remember that BAUT is read by children and please keep this thread scientific, but not too graphic.

Jens
2010-Jun-14, 02:24 AM
I'm not a medical specialist at all, so this may not be accurate, but in practice I don't think that the firing squad is particularly inhumane. While I've never experienced being shot in the heart, I have been stabbed (by accident) and it's painful but I don't think it's particularly unbearable. I've heard that one of the things that causes a lot of difficulty to dying people is not the pain but the breathlessness, and this happens with shooting but presumably is happening along with blood loss so the person is gradually losing consciousness. With injection it's I think almost pure asphyxiation, so the humanness would depend a bit on whether the person is really unconscious throughout the procedure. Actually, I think both methods are probably less painful than most natural deaths.

novaderrik
2010-Jun-14, 02:59 AM
the only humane way to execute someone is to have surviving relatives of their victims choose the method of execution and give them the option of flipping the switch/pulling the trigger/pushing down on the syringe.
failing that, whichever method makes the condemned suffer the most before finally shedding their mortal coil.

Gillianren
2010-Jun-14, 04:30 AM
the only humane way to execute someone is to have surviving relatives of their victims choose the method of execution and give them the option of flipping the switch/pulling the trigger/pushing down on the syringe.
failing that, whichever method makes the condemned suffer the most before finally shedding their mortal coil.

I think you may be using a different definition of "humane" than the rest of us.

novaderrik
2010-Jun-14, 04:58 AM
I think you may be using a different definition of "humane" than the rest of us.

probably, but that's ok.
why should the ending of the life of someone that did something so bad that society has decided that it is time for them to not have life any more be "humane"?
they gave up that privilege when they crossed whatever line they crossed to get that death sentence.
sometimes, i think we need to be more hardcore in how we dish out punishment to make it useful as a deterrent for the rest of us.
why bother with injecting them with chemicals that make them simply take a nap that they will never wake up from- using a sterilized needle- when a dirty needle and some air will do the same thing for almost free?

Jens
2010-Jun-14, 05:12 AM
sometimes, i think we need to be more hardcore in how we dish out punishment to make it useful as a deterrent for the rest of us.


The OP specifically asked to avoid the societal implications, and you are bringing it right in. Are you trying to get the thread closed? It's clear that the OP was intended to ask, which is the least painful of the two methods?

Actually, an interesting thought came to me regarding the firing squad. There are certainly a fair number of soldiers who have been shot throughout history. There are I'm sure cases of soldiers who have been shot in the heart but survived following surgery. There are certainly soldiers who have lost enough blood to lose consciousness. And many of them go back to the battlefield, so it can't be all that traumatic.

The same can be said with breaking a bone. I broke my leg skiing when I was a kid, and I can assure you it was very painful. But it wasn't painful enough that it stopped me from skiing again the next year. So I don't think pain is all it's hyped up to be. Kind of the same with hypodermic needles. We tend to dislike them. But getting bitten by a mosquito isn't all that different, and people don't worry about falling asleep and getting bitten by a mosquito (except for the malaria of course) while they fret over a doctor's visit because of the needle.

So I'm not sure that the pain is the real issue. Probably the knowledge of impending death is the key issue, and the method of execution doesn't matter in that case.

Gillianren
2010-Jun-14, 06:00 AM
Well, and for heaven's sake, some of us voluntarily make a decision which we know will bring us a great deal of pain and discomfort some months down the road. (In fact, a friend is just about through the discomfort to the pain part; she's huge.) We don't, for the most part, enjoy getting hurt, but we have to be willing to deal with it for the continuation of the species.

Tog
2010-Jun-14, 07:04 AM
As a Utah resident, but not a medical professional, the only thing I can really say about this is that one of the motives given to those who choose the firing squad is the shock value of it.

I can't say for sure whether or not that's true, but the last time the state executed a prisoner this way (1996) there a lot of discussion about it. It brings the focus of the world press down upon the state for allowing such an act, with the hope that the international opinion will be enough to get the sentence commuted. He's still trying for that. The final hearing is set for Monday, the 14th (tomorrow).

Right now this is a charged topic in the state, not for this guy's crime, but because of a more recent one by someone else.

Also, avoid the comments section on the SLTRIB site. It's almost as bad as Youtube, and I know of two people that actively troll there just to stir things up.

pzkpfw
2010-Jun-14, 10:41 AM
Thread closed, for now, because it's apparently too hard to keep on course. Sorry DrRocket, but hopefully you got some of what you wanted in the first few replies. It may or may not be re-opened. The mods are discussing.

As usual; to request that this thread be reopened (or to complain about it being closed) report this post. The request should be justified (a complaint will be what it is).