It’s alarming but it’s come to light that some prisoners being executed by lethal injection, the most common (and supposedly most humane) form of legal euthanasia in the US, may still be conscious as they’re being killed. Just as their victims were. A story at BBC News reports that a University of Miami study of anesthesia and awareness in prisoners found that low standards – standards that would not be tolerated in an animal hospital – are causing death-row prisoners to suffer unnecessarily. The study showed that execution officials are mostly inept and prisoners often receive inadequate amounts of anesthesia.
Prisoners are first given sodium thiopental, which acts as an anaesthetic before pancuronium bromide is given to cause paralysis. Potassium chloride is then given to cause death. Without anaesthesia, the person would experience suffocation and excruciating pain – but would not be able to move.