I have complicated feelings in regards to the death penalty, and beyond saying that if we as a society have decided that:

  • We’re going to execute people for some crimes
  • We’re not going to allow our government to use cruel and unusual punishment on any living person

That executions should be as painless as possible for the condemned, even though they’ll be free of the pain shortly.

Taylor Dolven reporting for VICE News: Death by opioids, Nevada is about to execute a guy with fentanyl

From the article:

Susi Vassallo, a New York University professor of emergency medicine, told The Marshall Project that the three-drug protocol “doesn’t make much sense.”

“You don’t need Valium [aka diazepam] if you have fentanyl,” she said, adding that both drugs are lethal and cause unconsciousness. Vassallo said that fentanyl would need to be administered in a large, ongoing dose in order to kill the inmate, a departure from past lethal injection protocols.

First and foremost, this has been a thing that has come up in my mind several times - why don’t we use confiscated heroin to execute people, if it’s as deadly as it’s been made out to be? In 2014, the DEA claims to have seized 1,020 kilograms of heroin. 1999 was the busiest year for American executions with 98 people executed. I imagine that with about 1,000 kg of heroin seized, and a year with 100 executions, that entitles each condemned person to a little over twenty two pounds of heroin each. I’ve never used heroin, but I feel confident in saying that 22lb of heroin is enough to kill a person.

Secondly, I have had morphine administered to me once in an emergency room. I do know that it is the weaker cousin to heroin and if Uncle Sam decided that it had enough of me, morphine would be a fine way for me to go out, in my opinion.

Third, of the quote from the VICE article, why would fentanyl need to be administered in a large, ongoing dose in order to kill? We’ve been led to believe that fentanyl is so dangerous that tiny, incidental, and cutaneous exposures to it can lead to life threatening situations (it can’t). In seriousness, as I am unaware of dosages and the realities of opioid use, having no personal experience nor any personal contacts that I know of that use drugs from that family recreationally, I feel like I’m not getting the whole story of what is the real level of danger that comes from those substances. Perhaps the media is selling the factually high number of opioid related deaths in this country, but adding on a nice, unhealthy dollop of sensationalization to sell more advertisements.