Methods of Capital Punishment

Don’t you still behead people in the US for treason? :grinning:

Did we ever behead people? I thought that was a French thing. We used to hang people though. I’m guessing that most convicted traitors were sentenced to death by hanging.

I was being facetious. I don’t think the US ever beheaded people but beheading may actually be more humane than the electric chair?


We should kill people five different ways and ask them which they liked best.

Beheading, if done quickly, is probably a pretty humane way to go.

Whatever drugs are used to euthanize animals (which is not what they use in lethal injections) would be a pretty humane way to go.

An intentional overdose of morphine or heroin or any other opioid would be a humane way to go.

There are humane ways to kill people… the US just doesn’t seem to use any of them.

Firing squad is probably fine for the person being killed, but perhaps not fine for the members of the firing squad.

I would opt for lethal injection every time.

I used to think that, but it sounds like sometimes it takes a while and may actually be pretty unpleasant while the drugs are working.

I say we make intentional heroin overdose the preferred means of performing executions.


Is it any worse for them than for the person flipping the switch on the chair, or on the guillotine, or pushing the plunger on the lethal injection?

Seems like I read somewhere that the answer to that question is “yes” but I no longer recall where I read that, or how credible the source was.

I believe that tradition with firing squads is the shooters are assigned either real bullets or blanks, without them being aware of their assignments. The theory is that this permits members of the firing squad to believe that they could have been firing a blank, rather than actually executing the sentence.

(However, a reasonably experienced shooter can tell the difference, if they’re paying attention.)

Yes, I’ve certainly heard that too… no idea the truthiness, but I’ve been told that.

I would assume that people on a firing squad would ordinarily be pretty experienced shooters. That seems like a bona fide job requirement.

Maybe they can stand in a circle so they won’t be able to tell if it’s an entry wound or an exit wound

Yeah, the point is obviously not “humane”. But to be fair there are barriers to using some of those methods. For instance, using the drugs vets use is the obvious way to go – quick, tidy, and selected over many years by experienced practitioners to be as humane as possible. But any drug used in executions can be hard to obtain in the US, as most drugs are made elsewhere, and most of those elsewheres frown on executing humans.

The other really humane method you left out is to remove oxygen from the air the condemns breathes, most simply by replacing it with nitrogen. It requires a gas chamber or a firmly secured facemask. But it happens accidentally to people who wander into “controlled atmosphere storage” of produce pretty often, and they don’t suffer, they just quietly lose consciousness.

Many people have also been revived after passing out from breathing pure nitrogen, so we also have first-hand evidence that it’s not painful. I know a woman who passed out from low oxygen in her air as part of pilot training, and she described the experience on Facebook. I also know a guy who passed out from CO poisoning, who described it as pleasant, until he was revived with a splitting headache.

The reason to use nitrogen is that it’s cheap, painless, and small leaks are harmless. CO is cheap and painless, but leaks could be dangerous to others. CO2 is cheap and safe, but it’s a painful way to go, because what triggers your “need to breath” reflex is an excess of CO2.


I’m assuming the FBI has reviewed your search history at some point.


Yeah I knew about the issue using the veterinary euthanasia drugs from a prior discussion… probably AO vintage.

We have plenty of opioids though. And yes, plenty of nitrogen too.

I’m assuming that fentanyl is probably a pretty painless way to go too and I assume we can manufacture as much as we need, so there’s another possibility.

The problem with opioids is that people have enormously different sensitivity to them. I gather that regular users (and a non-trivial fraction of violent criminals are basically messed up people who also use drugs and have a number of other problems) So it’s hard to get the right dose. Even for normal use, they generally start low and titrate up to an effective dose. When my mom was dying it took the nurses several hours after the morphine arrived before they gave her enough to really help.

Fentanyl is dirt cheap and easy to manufacture, though. I don’t know if any companies make it in the US, but a bet a state could set up a lab to do it.

I know there’s a lot of variance in the effective doses. But how much variance is there in the lethal doses? If you made the lethal injection 10% higher than the lethal dose for a heroin addict then maybe that’s overkill for non-addicts, but is it really that big of a deal? Maybe you wasted a little drug?

Morphine can be wonderful stuff. When my mother was dying they seemed to get the dose right as it gave her the ability to calmly say good bye to us without pain. All we could hope for in that situation.

I personally have received morphine twice in hospital for severe pain and both times it gave me a calmness that I have never experienced otherwise. It could be a pleasant way to go when the time comes.


I don’t know, man, overdosing causes your brain to no longer remember how to make you breathe. It can be pretty terrifying.

I was given fentanyl and propofol to knock me out recently, and in the moments I was going under, I could not breathe, and it was horrible (I haven’t had that kind of reaction being put under before and I’m not sure why it happened this time). But more than that, it was terrifying to not be able to breathe but also not really be able to do much to let anyone know it was happening to me. And I knew I was surrounded by people who knew exactly what was happening to me and who would be able to keep me alive. I don’t know that would be a humane way to go compared to something quick.

Really? Did not know that. I thought heroin was pretty similar to morphine. So… morphine overdose?