Why I am Against the Death Penalty: A Disturbing Look at the Process in Missouri

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

From behind a screen in a Kansas City court June 5, the doctor who devised and supervised the state’s lethal injection procedure described it in terms so troubling to a federal judge that he ordered it halted.
The doctor testified anonymously that he is dyslexic. That he sometimes confused names of drugs. That he sometimes gave inconsistent testimony. That the injection protocol was not written down, and that he made changes on his “independent authority.”
And that turns out not to be all.


*snip*

Two Missouri hospitals won’t allow him to practice within their walls. He has been sued for malpractice more than 20 times, by his own estimate, and was publicly reprimanded in 2003 by the state Board of Healing Arts for failing to disclose malpractice suits to a hospital where he was treating patients.
It is unclear how much U.S. District Judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. was told before he strongly questioned the doctor’s qualifications — and whether Missouri was delivering unconstitutionally cruel punishment in its death chamber.
Doerhoff’s reprimand was no secret to Attorney General Jay Nixon’s office. Nixon’s office, which fought to keep Doerhoff’s identity a secret in death penalty appeals, signed off on the discipline.

The Attorney Generals’ office isn’t answering questions about it, the Mo Dept of Corrections isn’t answering questions about it and is stonewalling on requests for documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
Very disturbing stuff and well worth reading…
I’d be interested in hearing what some of the medical folks here at SB have to say about the article and the portrait of the Doctor involved…

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8 Responses

  1. The problem with the American style of execution is, it’s too damn complicated and takes too much time. If you must kill a man, do it quick and do it by surprise.
    You want an injury that will put the prisoner into a state of shock, and initiate the endorphin response common among those on the verge of death. An injury that will cause death quickly while keeping the condemned calm.
    Put a tranquiliser in his last meal. Then, while he sleeps, put a mask on him and let him breath a mix of standard atmosphere and carbon monoxide. He’ll never wake up.
    If you must kill a man don’t make a spectacle out of it.

  2. The reason I am against the death pentalty is becasue it is murder. There is no place for it in a proper society.

  3. A more accurate title for the post would have been “One of the many reasons I am against the death penalty”. I think the nature of the process creates this kind of secrecy and abuse…

  4. “The reason I am against the death pentalty is becasue it is murder. There is no place for it in a proper society.”
    George: I’m going to have to disagree with you here. Execution:Murder::Imprisonment:Kidnapping. Any kind of punishment or enforced rehabilitation is going to involve some kind of behavior by the State and its representatives towards the criminal that would be considered criminal itself if one citizen inflicted it on another … There are some good arguments against the death penalty to be had, but a ‘killing is always wrong’ argument is ingenuous and simplistic, in my opinion. The path from that idea to pure anarcy is too short to even be called a slippery slope.

  5. Sounds like an argument for better selection of doctors to administer lethal injections rather than a good argument against the death penalty altogether.
    There are lots of things in society we could prohibit if inappropriate standards or occasional abuses are the only argument against them.
    I mean, after all, if they correct this problem, are you going to suddenly support the death penalty? Is this really the reason you are against the death penalty? I doubt it. Why don’t you make your real argument against the death penalty then?
    (For the record, I am generally opposed to the death penalty also, but I think your reasoning here is more than a little disingenuous.)

  6. Mike, as I pointed out in my previous comment, this is one of many reasons I am against the death penalty. There are too many things that can go wrong in the process and this is just one example (Missouri is not the only state having this particular problem). More disturbing is how hard the State of Missouri fought to keep this out of the court system because they really did not want the process examined. Interestingly enough, the Doctor in question has since denied the testimony.

  7. Afarensis,
    You think this is just one of several things that could go wrong. You might be right. However, I somehow suspect that even if the standards for the entire process were revamped and made substantially more rigorous (including, among other such steps, making DNA evidence mandatory), you would still oppose the death penalty.
    I don’t think your core argument against the death penalty lies in the process of implementing it. I think you have other objections that you find more difficult to spell out.

  8. I think you are misunderstanding, to a greater or lesser extent, what I was trying to say int this post (my fault, clarity is the responsibility of the writer). The post was about one of many reasons I am against the death penalty, so yes even if this was fixed I would still be against the death penalty – but this post was not about that. For the record I am against the death penalty because I think it is evil for the State to be killing it’s own citizens…

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