Sunday, October 7, 2007

Veterinarians find selves in death penalty debate

AUSTIN -- The ongoing debate over whether lethal injection inflicts unconstitutional misery on condemned inmates has ensnared the American Veterinary Medical Association in a political debate of which the 75,000-member organization wants no part.

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The U.S. Supreme has agreed to hear the cases of Kentucky death-row inmates regarding the process used to conduct executions. The evidence seems clear - the current lethal cocktail may fail to render the condemned individual unconscious, but leaving him or her paralyzed but awake while the other chemicals inflict excruciating pain. The Court may rule that states have to change their method of execution; enter the Veterinary Medical Association.

Basically, this group has directed veterinary doctors not to use the combination of chemicals used in human executions to euthanize animals. Given this evidence and the cases of botched executions, it is very likely that the Court's decision will only cause some inconvenience to the states as they have to either re-write their statutes or departments of correction will have to revise their execution procedures.

I'm going out on a limb, but given the current composition of the Court I doubt that it will decide that the death penalty itself is a violation of the 8th Amendment (especially since that is not the issue). It seems to me that the Court has tried to eliminate most of the obstacles to conducting executions (juveniles, mentally retarded), perhaps with an eye toward increasing the number of executions.

I predict that we will have a brief moratorium while states revise the process, and then the killing will resume, perhaps at a greater pace.

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