Methods of Execution

Methods of Execution :

One man's taking of another's life is generally seen as an unforgivable act which is punishable with death. When this is done as punishment however, it is seen as an honorary deed by removing this criminal from the world and making it a much safer place to live. With executions in mind, it is incredible what ingenious methods can be thought of by the human brain and the fact that the idea is centered around the murdering of one man does not even change how prodigious these innovations are seen to be. Many different techniques and procedures for execution are used throughout the world revealing much about a country's culture and their concern for their citizens. By far one of the most well known and publicly glamorized of all methods of execution is electrocution. Present in nine American states, it was first used in New York in 1890. When a condemned man is scheduled to be executed, he is led into the death chamber and strapped to the point of immobility into a reinforced chair with belts crossing his chest, groin, legs and arms. Two copper electrodes, dipped in brine or treated with Eletro-Creme to increase conductivity, are attached to him, one to his leg and the other to his head. The first jolt, between five-hundred and two thousand volts depending on the size of the prisoner, is given for 30 seconds. Smoke will begin to come out of the prisoner's leg and head and these areas may catch fire if the victim has been sweating profusely. A doctor will examine him and if he still shows life signs, more jolts of two-thousand volts are administered to finish the job. A main reason for electrocution's original use was the thought that death was immediate. Unfortunately this is not the case. Doctors today believe that the victim feels himself begin burned to death and suffocating since the shock cause respiratory paralysis as well as cardiac arrest. Because the energy of the shock paralyzes the muscles, he cannot cry out and therefore is presumed dead. How ironic that one reason electrocution was kept in use was that, although expensive, it was immensely serene as far as the prisoner is concerned. Still used extensively throughout the world today and in its sole representing U.S. state, Utah, the firing squad has a much greater claim to being humane as bullets directly into the heart generally cause instantaneous death.

Utah uses an extremely exact and well-practiced method which is immensely centered around concern for the victim by taking almost every precaution possible to ensure a quick and easy death. The victim is bound to a chair with leather straps that cross his waist and head. Next a doctor locates the exact position of his heart with a stethoscope and pins a circular white target over it. Twenty feet away, on the other side of a canvas wall, are five men with .30-caliber rifles. Each man aims through a gun portal located in the center of the canvas and fire simultaneously. A prisoner dies as a result of blood loss caused by rupture of the heart or a large blood vessel or tearing of the lungs. He loses consciousness when shock causes a fall in the supply of blood to the brain. Though a shot to the head causes instant death that method is not used due to high percentage of failures. Some countries deliberately alter these steps in order to cause a more gruesome death. In Taiwan, the condemned is shot either in the back or chest four times in strategically painful places. After nearly and hour of misery the officials take the fifth and final shot into the heart. It is astounding how one country will do all humanly possible to try to make death a quick and easy procedure while another tries to do all they can to make it as painful and agonizing as possible. The gas chamber, most famous for its abundant use during World War II, is the method used in Nevada and California and is also used in the Philippines. The prisoner is led into a room and fastened to a metal chair with perforated seats. Straps are secured across his upper and lower legs, arms, groin and chest.

A long stethoscope is also affixed to his chest so that a doctor outside of the room can pronounce death. Underneath the chair is a bowl filled with a sulfuric acid and distilled water solution, with a pound of sodium cyanide pellets suspended in a gauze bag just above. After the door is closed and sealed, the executioner pulls a lever that triggers the release of the cyanide into the liquid. This cause the releasing of hydrogen cyanide gas which raises through the holes in the seat of the chair. According to doctors, the victim will feel unable to breathe, but will not immediately lose consciousness…a statement which contradicts the previous belief that the victim is becomes unconscious instantly which eliminates all pain and suffering. What actually happens is that pain like that of a heart attack begins immediately and is felt in the arms, shoulders, back and chest? The initial physical result is spasms, as in an epileptic seizure which will not stop for ten to twelve minutes, but the straps restrain most involuntary body movements. How strange that something condemned by the U.S. after World War II is now a preference which they hold. Hanging which is regarded as swift and sure was mainly used because of the assumption that it is painless because it rapidly dislocates the neck. The usual hanging begins with a rope fastened around the neck of a prisoner, the knot under his left ear. Next, the trap door upon which he is standing is opened causing a violent jerk when the rope tightens. Then, he is left hanging until it is absolutely sure that he is dead. According to Harold Hillman, a British physiologist, the dangling person feels cervical pain, and probably suffers from an acute headache as well, a result of the rope closing off the veins to the neck. The belief that fractures of the spinal cord cause immediate death is wrong in all but a small fraction of cases. The actual cause of death is strangulation or suffocation.

First, after the trap doors opens, the prisoner's weight causes tearing of the cervical muscles, skin and blood vessels. The upper cervical vertebrae are the dislocated and spinal cord finally separated from the brain, causing death. This can take anywhere from fifteen seconds to fifteen minutes. So much for doing the prisoner a favor by giving him such a smooth and rapid death. First used in the United States in 1977, lethal injection is now is the most widespread with its use in twenty-three states. Of all the methods found in the U.S., it is by far the most humane and least likely to have costly mistakes. The prisoner is strapped to a hospital gurney, built with an extension panel for the left arm. Technicians stick a catheter needle into his arm and long tubes connect it through a wall to several intravenous drips. The first which was started immediately is harmless saline solution. The next drug is sodium thiopental, a common barbiturate used as an anesthetic, which puts patients quickly to sleep. A normal dose for a long operation is one-thousand milligrams so the prisoner receives two-thousand. As soon as he loses consciousness he is given pavilion, a common muscle relaxant used in heart surgery. The dose now is one-hundred milligrams, ten times the usual which stops his breathing which would kill him in ten minutes. To speed this up however, an equal dose of potassium chloride which is used in bypass surgery to stop the heart from pumping is given and it works in ten seconds. It is not hard to see why this is regarded as the best as far as the prisoner is concerned.

While the aforementioned methods are widely known to be still in use, the following is most likely thought to have disappeared long ago. Beheading which is known mainly because of the guillotine in the French Revolution is still being carried out by sword in countries such as Saudi Arabia. Like hanging, beheading was originally thought of as quick and sure but recent medical finding show that oxygenated blood still in the brain may allow consciousness and pain for up to thirty seconds. Reports have even been that the severed head surveyed the crowd after its decapitation. When the day arrives for a prisoner in Saudi Arabia to be executed, he is taken to a public square in the middle of the town where it is to be held. This is frequently where the crime was committed to give some retribution for what was done. The executioner emerges from the crowd, brandishing a scimitar and robed in all black. He positions himself upstage allowing the victim to face Mecca, but still giving the audience an unobstructed view. He grasps his sword firmly with both hands, coils back his body and lashes out at the back of the condemned are neck. The prisoner's head falls and the deed is done, a crude and rudimentary execution with little concern for anyone involved. About as rare and abnormal as beheading, stoning is still instituted in some Islamic states, namely Iran. Dating back to biblical times, modern day stoning consists of basically the same procedures with a few modern revisions. The condemned is bound hand and foot and buried up to the neck in sand with a white sheet placed over their head. A crowd of bystanders is then allowed to pelt the guilty party until their lack of screams indicates death. As one of these modern day improvements. However, Iran's law forbids the use of stones any larger than a golf ball as they bring death too swiftly. Just as one can tell much about a person by the music they listen too, one can also tell a lot about a country's society by the method of execution which they use. A country that uses lethal injection, hanging or any other of these humane methods must care enough about their people to try and make their executions one that is less to them.

On the other side, if a country uses public beheading, stoning or other inhumane methods, they must have little regard for their citizens that they prefer them to suffer in excruciating pain than they die in a quick and easy without remorse. The United States for example has shown great concern for their citizens by having all methods used be remotely humane. They have even removed electrocution from a few states and replaced it with things such as lethal injection, even though electrocution is much kinder to the condemned than a handful of other methods present in the world. It must take a very backwards society to use methods which allow the public to participate in the execution. All that this does is make everyone want to be a part of this sadistic act and whose children do not dream of being G.I. Joe or Barbie but being the lucky one who gets to throw the first stone. Whether it is done by hanging, firing squad or stoning, all of these methods end in the same way, someone's death. This may be quick or the condemned may be writhing in pain during their execution. All these different techniques show the amount of regard for the lives of citizens in the countries in which they are used.

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