Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FDA Halts Executions. The FDA?

Pictured is the California gas chamber, which hasn't been used since a federal judge called executions off in 2006. They don't use the lethal gas anymore, but what the heck, the chamber and viewing area already existed, so why not use it? Imagine that--California missing an opportunity to spend more of the taxpayers' money on deluxe accommodations for death penalty recipients.

Lethal injection became the fad method of execution so that mad dogs could be put down more humanely. As Sam Waterston said in defense of his prosecution of a death penalty case on Law and Order, "one can believe in the death penalty without being sanguine about it." But where there's a death penalty, there are do-gooders who won't countenance the ultimate punishment under any circumstances. The United States Supreme Court has firmly upheld the death penalty as constitutional, so the bleeding-hearts had to find another way around the problem.

Enter the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the omnipresent Holder Justice Department (DOJ). If you can't stop executions per se, challenge the method. And challenge they have. Georgia was the first state to receive a knock on its door requiring that the state turn over its supply of sodium thiopental to the DEA. The drug is the first of three drugs administered to produce the final lethal result. This cocktail is the preferred method of execution in 34 states. Kentucky and Tennessee have also received a request from the DEA, but have not yet had their supply confiscated.

The FDA had made an independent decision some time back that the sodium thiopental being used in Georgia (among others) was not pure enough. It hounded the state and the manufacturers until the major supplier, Hospira, simply stopped making the drug. The drug is still available in large quantities from British manufacturers who are not hampered by ACLU science and FDA purity. So the domestic supply ran out, and death penalty opponents pushed the FDA into refusing to approve the British drug.

That got us to the next alphabet agency--the DEA. Having disapproved the British supply, the FDA handed-off to the DEA. The DEA began investigations which turned up the likelihood that several states appeared to be using the British supply which was "mis-branded" as something other than the first-step drug for lethal injections. But it was still sodium thiopental, and that's how it was labeled. Go figure.

A lawsuit was filed in the D.C. federal district court charging that Georgia, California, Tennessee and Kentucky have received shipments of the British drug in defiance of the FDA's disapproval. Suddenly the liberals have gone all chauvinistic about "foreign" drugs (although they don't seem to care much about the drugs coming across our southern border). Oddly, the defendant in the suit is the FDA itself, which doesn't seem to be putting up much of a defense. The logic is that the FDA should have to abide by the law and not allow the importation of unapproved foreign drugs.

Not satisfied with attacking our "trading partners'" ability to make good drugs, the lawsuit also tosses in the additional horror story of how even pure sodim thiopental, if not administered properly, can cause excruciating pain when the next two drugs are added to the lethal mix. So even if the British drug is as good as any American domestic sodium thiopental, its use must still be stopped until that additional "problem" is "solved."

And it just keeps getting better. In California, among others, the lethal injection procedure is performed by state corrections personnel. Few are doctors. Other lawsuits have been filed saying that the procedure is a medical procedure which should only be exercised by licensed doctors. That made the job easier for the death penalty opponents, since California had already gotten its sodium thiopental approved by a federal panel after lab certification of purity. But there's still that pesky problem of finding doctors who will carry out a death sentence (suddenly, they've discovered the Hippocratic Oath that they routinely ignore while performing abortions).

Texas solved its sodium thiopental problem by replacing it with domestically-produced pentobarbital. That was an FDA-approved alternative drug. But the ACLU pulled the "medical procedure" ploy, and the Texas Medical Association forbids its doctors from participating in executions. Texans have great deal more common sense than Californians, so at present at least, the ploy hasn't worked.

To sum up, a method of execution approved by the United States Supreme Court in a 7 to 2 decision in 2008 has been halted in its tracks in nearly half the states which have the death penalty by the FDA, DEA and ACLU. Not to be outdone, the DOJ has entered the arena, ordering the DEA to investigate state corrections officials for possessing drugs approved by the Supreme Court but not allowed by the FDA. Are you beginning to get irritated? I know I am. Barack Obama wants more agencies and fewer Senatorial confirmations for heads of those agencies. He's not satisfied with end-runs around Congress, he needs to end-around the Supreme Court as well.

I would like to add that the whole "humane execution" concept is a Progressive scam. Simply put, the most efficient, humane and quick method of execution is hanging. The worst horror stories about modern methods of hanging can't rival those of the electric chair and the gas chamber. But hanging isn't pretty enough for the "reformers." Still, the whole argument comes down to believing in the death penalty or not believing in it, and it's a fair debate. "Humane treatment" merely muddies the waters.

Sociologists and do-gooders have long substituted rehabilitation for punishment, even though they are supposed to be two intertwined concepts within the criminal justice system. Once the Supreme Court declared both the death penalty and the lethal injection process constitutional, the bleeding-hearts had to find a new way to attack. There is no issue of rehabilitation in the ultimate penalty, and the Supreme Court has determined its validity. Since the method has been upheld, that leaves only actual administration of the final punishment and/or the drugs themselves to be argued.

You don't need a doctor to carry out a hanging, and you don't need a pharmaceutical company to produce a rope. This concept of gently putting the murderer to sleep is all well and good, but I find it far too clinical and far too inhuman. We put beloved pets to sleep. We execute murderers. Perhaps we could improve our trade relations with France by buying their unused guillotines, the other quick and painless form of execution. But either way, the current debate is a smokescreen to cover up the agenda of those who oppose the death penalty, and to hell with the people of the individual states and the Supreme Court.

I have no quarrel with those who honestly oppose the death penalty. I've gone back and forth on the issue myself several times in my lifetime. I do have a quarrel with the dishonest misuse of the law, the courts and alphabet agencies to thwart the Constitution and the will of the people.

22 comments:

patti said...

i'm reading and i'm trying to concentrate on the subject of executing murderers, yet my brain keeps screaming that it has HAD ENOUGH of this government. laws mean nothing. the will of the people mean nothing. their power means everything. lord help us.

BevfromNYC said...

I am all for "an eye for an eye" kind of executions. If the murderer forced someone to drink Drano, then they should be forced to drink Drano. Okay, okay...but this is just insanity. It's not "pure" enough? My head hurts.

AndrewPrice said...

If they don't have enough of this drug, then the answer is simple -- go back to hanging. Let's see how the squishy advocates of murderers' rights like that.

BevfromNYC said...

Actually, Andrew, I have been reading lately about how there isn't enough of the drugs available to perform executionons in some states. I say they should move those on death row to the homes of people who object to the death penalty and let them rehabilitate them. How about we start with Eric Holders' family's home first. Kind of like "The Blind Side" meets "Dead Man Walking".

But hanging works too.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Hawk
How do they know that in improperly administered dose causes excruciating pain? Have they ask any of the recipients and gotten an affirmation?
I just can't get the MASH suicide song out of my head saying suicide is painless but it brings on many changes. What is different with professionally administered versus self administered?

Tennessee Jed said...

Like you, Hawk, I am conflicted over the death penalty. Like abortion, it is an issue where there are vexing questions on all sides of the issue. As it turns out, I am somewhere near Bev's thinking these days. I have to give the medieval English credit where credit is due. They had a certain flair. By example, I give you the death of the son of the English King, Edward "longshanks." I forget the name, but in Braveheart, he was portrayed as quite the fop.

Propriety prevents my mention of his execution on this family oriented and tasteful blog. However, if your prurient interests permit, I'm sure you can quickly check it out on-line. Let's just say it involves a five foot long metal spear heated white hot over an open flame. Well, you get the idea. So, let us hear no moreth bullshit about cruel and unusual from the pansies of California. This one would work for me with Lamericus Davidson, currently on death row in Tennessee. Perhaps Khalid Sheik Muhammed should be a candidate as well.

O.K., O.K. maybe I got carried away. Then again, maybe I didn't.

LawHawkRFD said...

Patti: I hadn't noticed that the Obama administration is that power-hungry. LOL Sure enough, he and Holder along with the gang from Chicago use agencies, then back them up with the Justice Department. It's rather frightening. But it's all good-natured fun in the name of the living Constitution.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: I know you were kidding, but it's the line of reasoning that I've come to accept as the basis for the death penalty--proportionality. If someone shoots another person for criminal gain, we wouldn't shoot the perpetrator, but we'd plan to give him a very stiff sentence as punishment. For those who have committed the kind of crime for which the highly-limited death penalty is available, I support the final penalty. Some crimes are so inhuman and strike so deeply at the fabric of society that they require permanent removal of the perpetrator from the company of his fellow man.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: And think of all the union public employees we could put to work building the scaffolds. More jobs created or saved.

LawHawkRFD said...

Bev: The mistake the states made was importing the drugs from Britain. If they had imported them from China instead, the administration wouldn't have gone after them, and the person sentenced to the execution would get an extra dose of lead just for good measure.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tehachapi Tom: It's a question we've probably all asked ourselves, but I suppose somewhere along the line there has been a planned execution that was halted because of some kind of reaction from the sentenced person, and they probably asked him. The body, however, does all sorts of strange things that resemble pain while sleeping and it doesn't mean the person is actually in pain.

My simple question is "what's wrong with morphine or heroin?" Every junkie has described the euphoria and warmth they succeeded in attaining as they shot up. Except the ones who OD'd, of course. They're dead. That works, obviously.

It's all baloney, of course. I've had multiple major surgeries, and once that anesthesia kicked in (in very short order) they could have cut me in half with a rusty butter knife and I wouldn't have known the difference. Any reputable medical professional will tell you that you're as close to death as you will ever be when they put you under for surgery. And that's before they start cutting.

LawHawkRFD said...

Tennessee: And that of course is why we don't allow individuals the power of life and death over their fellow human beings. We give that power to the law, and highly restrict its use. I know I'd be happy to heat up the poker for KSM, or prepare the field for drawing and quartering. But a civilized society doesn't do those things. For the families and friends of the victims of the scum, revenge may or may not enter into the formula. But for society, it must be the ultimate punishment, neither more nor less. But even though I do support the current limitations on the number of crimes for which the death penalty is allowable, I find the alleged "pain" concept to be spurious and disingenuous. As several of us have now agreed, hang 'em. Using a medical procedure death penalty that is tantamount to putting down a family dog who is beyond medical help feels too much like assisted suicide and too little like punishment.

AndrewPrice said...

Hawk, You're assuming they would actually do the work. I'm thinking they would import gallows from Mexico and just bill us a ton to inspect them.... wouldn't want them to be unsafe and somehow kill someone.

** groan **


Bev, I like the idea of shipping criminals and terrorists to the homes of people who say they pose no threat. In fact, I'm all for closing Gitmo so long as Pelosi, Obama and Biden all agree to take a couple in. Talk about a win-win!

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: At $25/hr. plus perks, benefits, free medical care and massive retirement benefits, there's no dearth of union carpenters. Now whether they actually know how to pound nails is another story entirely. Which is why we need four times as many inspectors as carpenters. It's called socialism. LOL

LimeyLibertarian said...

Pity Albert Pierrepoint is not still around, could have given you guys a few tips on how to hang a man (Look him up on the internets). We got rid of the death penalty in the early 60's in the UK, such a shame. There are some people that cannot be rehabilitated and some that are just plain evil and can never be released. Why lock them up for the rest of their lives, surely that is a 'cruel and unusual punishment' ?

Interesting BBC documentary by Michael Portillo, an ex Conservative MP all about the most effective and humane ways to execute people. Part of it on You tube if you want to watch. Surprising conclusions on the most humane form

T_Rav said...

Jed, I think you're thinking of Edward Longshanks son (formally King Edward II). And I do know exactly what you're talking about. For those who don't, well--let's just say he was widely known to be gay, so most people thought the manner of his execution Jed alluded to was very clever.

LawHawkRFD said...

Limey Libertarian: You are so right. Some people are so irredeemable and their crimes so horrific that removing them from this world is the only genuine solution.

As for hanging, if used properly and scientifically, it is quick and painless. Unfortunately, hanging can also be used as a final torture (strangling, rather than breaking the neck/spinal cord), and that's the picture too many people have in their minds. In addition, even the non-torture but quick hanging had a bad history as well. Improperly tied knots and miscalculation of weight sometimes produced the additional horror of beheading. That is all avoidable today with some simple calculations and a properly-tied knot. Still, as I mentioned, it's not pretty.

BUT, unlike public hangings up to the near-middle twentieth century, executions are largely "private," with viewing limited to a very restricted list of required or permitted witnesses. I've managed to live a very long life without having to see, or having access to seeing an execution in the California gas chamber. And there have been hundreds in that time period. I think that's a good thing. Making a public spectacle of anyone's death demeans us. It also adds fuel to the opponents' arguments that it's not a deterrent. But it's inarguable that it's a deterrent to at least one person--the one executed.

LawHawkRFD said...

T_Rav: Edward II's favorite boyfriend was Piers Gaveston, who was banished from the kingdom by Longshanks rather than tossed from the battlements a la Braveheart. It's pretty clear what his preferences were, even though he did have four children by his wife, Isabella of France. At least one of them was rumored to be fathered by Edward I. As for the younger Edward's method of death, I'll resist the temptation to say that he died with a smile on his face.

rlaWTX said...

Secession, anyone??? Then the Federal government won't be able to actively work against the will of the people and the States...

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: You're problem is easier than mine. First we'd have to secede from the union, then Kern County (along with a few others) would have to secede from California. Texas just seems to have it better than the rest of us all the way around.

Kosh said...

Little late to this topic. Although I favor the death penalty in limited uses, as a physician I don't believe anyone in our profession should be involved. There should be separation. The state wants to execute someone, fine they should find the person to do it. You don't need a doctor to push the button.

To illustrate how insane this is there was a lawyer who was defending the actions by the DEA who stated, and I am paraphrasing, we don't want anyone to get hurt by getting an unapproved drug.

LawHawkRFD said...

Kosh: I fully respect your point of view. You took an oath, and you are honoring it. I wouldn't have it otherwise. But at least for awhile, the conflict between the physician's oath and the requirement that a physician administer the lethal injection caused a problem in Texas. It was a ploy from the left, which in actuality was only to nullify the death penalty and had little to do with the oath. The same people who support abortion on demand will go to any lengths to prevent the execution of adult murderers. Their selective morality bothers me a great deal more than a doctor holding to his or her oath.

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