Monday, May 26, 2014

New execution method on the horizon--nitrogen asphyxiation

This new method of execution being proposed, it is known as nitrogen asphyxiation, it seals the condemned in an airtight chamber pumped full of nitrogen gas, causing death by a lack of oxygen, according to Slate. Nitrogen gas has yet to be put to the test as a method of capital punishment—no country currently uses it for state-sanctioned executions. But people do die accidentally of nitrogen asphyxiation, and usually never know what hit them. (It’s even possible that death by nitrogen gas is mildly euphoric. Deep-sea divers exposed to an excess of nitrogen develop a narcosis, colorfully known as “raptures of the deep,” similar to drunkenness or nitrous oxide inhalation.)
Proponents say that death by nitrogen, by contrast, adheres to the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The condemned prisoner would detect no abnormal sensation breathing the odorless, tasteless gas, and would not undergo the painful experience of suffocation, which is caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, not by lack of oxygen.
In late April, Louisiana Department of Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc suggested to a state legislative committee that Louisiana should look into using nitrogen gas as a new method of execution, since lethal injection has become so contentious. “It’s become almost impossible to execute someone,” LeBlanc complained to the Louisiana House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee.
“Nitrogen is the big thing,” LeBlanc told the committee. “It’s a painless way to go. But more time needs to be spent [studying] that.” The committee instructed LeBlanc to do some research on the subject and report back. In the meantime, Louisiana has delayed a pending execution. “I’m not taking anything off the table,” says state Rep. Joseph P. Lopinto III, chairman of the state’s Administration of Criminal Justice Committee. “If someone says nitrogen gas is the way to go, then we can debate that and do it if need be.”
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