March 23, 2012
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"Euthanasia fluid", as I understand it, is immediate: the animal has no notion that it’s dying. (The transition between the animal standing there, alert, and then on the ground, dead, is startlingly sudden. I was stunned, seeing it.) That’s not the case for US-style execution by lethal injection, which (as I understand it) involves extended-in-time pain, terror, *and* the inability to express either. It looks peaceful, but is not.

I think there’s a principled case to be made that such executions are justified. But:

- because the suffering of the dying prisoner is effaced, we should be aware that any deterrent effect is reduced. “You just go to sleep” deters less than “you die in terror, but don’t have the motor control to express it”. We should be honest that the point is retribution not deterrence.

- we should not pretend we’re doing something… restrained…, something more humane than we’d expect for a sick goat in a veterinary clinic. We’re not.

As in so many things in US politics, I wish proponents would just be honest: “yes, this is what I propose, and yes, it will have these effects, and I agree to own them.” But, instead (as in so much of our politics), proponents want what they want without having the guts to articulate what the real consequences are.

I myself have never formed a firm opinion about capital punishment, except that the standards (in Illinois, at least) are too capricious. However, Steve Earle’s lines in “Billy Austin” matter:

   Could you take that long walk with me

   Knowing hell was waitin’ there?

   Could you pull that switch yourself sir?

   With a sure and steady hand?

Those who could pull the switch deserve some sort of respect. Those who could not, should maybe consider what that says about the… reality… of their supposed convictions.