Lethal injection was supposed to be a painless and more humane approach to capital punishment than the electric chair. But while that idea might sound noble in theory, it hasn't always worked out in practice. In fact, experiencing a lethal injection can be absolutely horrific.
While the regulations for capital punishment vary from state to state, most follow three basic steps involving three separate chemicals. Step 1 is the administration of an anaesthetic so that the inmate doesn't feel steps 2 and 3. The second step is the injection of a paralyzing agent while the third involves injecting a chemical that induces cardiac arrest.
Problem is, sometimes the first step doesn't work properly, so the prisoner will feel steps two and three, which - to put things mildly - are absolutely horrific.
"The third drug apparently feels like fire being poured into your veins," John Oliver explained on yesterday's episode of 'Last Week Tonight.' "And even the second drug...is nightmarish if you are not completely knocked out."
Basically, thanks to the paralyzing agent, you're not only incapable of moving but you also can't breathe. So you're drowning on dry land, and you're fully conscious of what's happening. But since you can't move your jaw, let alone speak, there's no way to let people know that the execution is going wrong. There's nothing you can do but lie there and wait for the third painful step.
That process is not only awful; it's also unnecessary since the paralyzing agent isn't actually used for the benefit of the prisoner.
"There's actually no medical reason for that," Oliver noted. "It's just for the benefit of the people watching, so they don't see the body flail or convulse" during the third step.
Worse yet, many states that perform lethal injections have stopped using anaesthetics and started using a drug called Midazolam, which is a sedative. That's like taking a shot of Jack Daniels instead of going under before open heart surgery. So more prisoners are experiencing an absolutely tortuous execution, but they can't tell the public about it because the paralyzing agent keeps them quiet.
For more on this story, check out the full segment from 'Last Week Tonight.'