Death Penalty Ethics

Why Not The Guillotine? Public Hangings?


While the state of Missouri is facing delays in their busy execution schedule because the company that sells the drugs used for lethal injection will no longer sell them based on moral grounds (yes really), Attorney General Chris Koster has a novel idea for speeding things up — bring back gas chambers!

Intent on moving forward with scheduled executions at any price, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said this week he would resort to the gas chamber while other methods are tied up in court battle. [...]

Gas chamber executions have been known to take upwards of ten minutes, and one prison warden said after an 11-minute execution that he would quit if forced to perform one again. Witnesses to others have reported gasping, moans, with one inmate banging his head against a steel pole.

At least four other states’ laws allow death by gas chamber, but they each either limit its use to certain circumstances, or give inmates a choice between that and lethal injection. The last execution using this method occurred in in 1999 in Arizona, when a German national convicted in the United States had a choice and opted for the gas chamber, prompting international outrage over its resonance of Holocaust Germany. No other country has used the gas chamber as a lawful method of execution, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Do we really want the distinction of being the only country to use gas chambers for execution in 2013? How could we possibly hope to claim the moral high ground and condemn the unfair treatment of prisoners in other regions of the world if we gas prisoners?

If the corporation who previously sold you the execution cocktail mix will no longer sell it to you because of moral objections, you may want to rethink things. And I don’t mean you should consider using even more heinous methods as an alternative.