December 14

Botched explanation of a botched execution

11  comments

death-chamber.jpgEarly this evening a condemned prisoner was executed by lethal injection in Florida.  Instead of the usual 5-10 minutes span from injection to death, this man, who required a second dose of the lethal chemicals, took 34 minutes to die.
Why did it take so long?

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said she doesn’t believe Diaz felt any pain and had liver disease, which required the second dose.
“It was not unanticipated. The metabolism of the drugs to the liver is slowed,” Plessinger said.

Governor Jeb Bush released a press statement reporting the following:

A preexisting medical condition of the inmate was the reason tonight’s procedure took longer than recent procedures carried out this year.

All this explaining is fine and dandy, except it doesn’t parse with medical reality.
The liver detoxifies drugs.  Patients with liver damage require much less of a given drug than those with normal livers.  If this man had truly suffered with liver disease, it would have taken less time for him to die, not more.  The contention of Jeb Bush and the Department of Corrections spokeswoman is flat out wrong.  Now, it they had said that this man had an exeptionally strong liver or an overactive liver or some other such nonsense, that could at least have been reconciled with medical reality.  But a diseased liver?  Never.
It’s a sad state of affairs when government officials cannot belly up to the bar of public opinion and take the blame when they screw up. 


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  1. “It’s a sad state of affairs when government officials cannot belly up to the bar of public opinion and take the blame when they screw up.”
    That’s cute Dr. Eades! Expecting our officials to own up to their failings. You should be ashamed of yourself for even suggesting such a thing. (That was sarcasm by the way.)
    Beyond that, I’m going to sidestep the discussion about the merits/drawbacks of capital punishment.
    Hi Scott–
    Everyone screws up!  You do, I do, everyone does at one time or another.  It’s part of being human.  I don’t understand why politicians (who are almost human) can’t stand up and admit mistakes.  I think people would think more of them, not less, if they did so.
    Let’s say Jeb Bush et al had come out and said: We made a mistake in the dosage of the medication we gave Mr. Diaz.  We have instituted procedures to ensure that this never happens again.  We apologize to Mr. Diaz’s family.  Or: We don’t understand what happened and why, but we are beginning an investigation and will report our findings as soon as we have them.  This unfortunate circumstance should never be repeated, and we are delaying all scheduled executions until our report is finalized.  Do they think people would think less of them?
    Thanks for writing.
    MRE

  2. Dr Mike:
    Right! Right! That’s why an alcoholic with a diseased liver needs LESS alchohol for intoxication, the liver ISN’T working. The official reason is a lie.
    Now, speculation. What circumstance could have caused a delayed death?
    Richard
    Hi Richard–
    There is a bell-shaped curve to most everything including the ability to detoxify drugs.  Give lab animals a typically lethal dose of whatever and there will be one or two (depending upon total sample size) that survive.  Mr. Diaz could have been way out on the tail of the curve in terms of his ability to deal with the lethal injection.  Having said that, if I had to make a bet, I would bet that the dosage of the first injection was incorrectly prepared.
    Best–
    MRE

  3. Sir about this i feel very strongly.
    To keep a man locked up for 27 yrs and then kill him smacks of country that is seriously almost societally insane in that its residents feel that this is fair and right.
    Humans esp men have of course massive hard wired vengeful characteristics based on our EEA BUT we know that and thus policy could be changed to counter those very destructive qualities..
    27 years and then he’s killed.
    Verily thats insane.
    Jeb Bush and his Clan. Sadly as the Bush’s make merry during this season one knows with almost certainty that they won’t be giving a flying phuq or thought about the Diaz family.
    Pitiful, shameful, horrific and deeply depressing given that we came from the same gene pool!
    Hi Simon–
    This is an issue I’ve agonized over myself for years.  On the one hand I believe that no country that calls itself civilized can possible carry out the death penalty.  On the other I think about how I would feel if someone brutally murdered one of my family members–would I feel okay if the perpetrator were simply put away for life?
    Then I think, well, maybe if we could be absolutely sure that the people we execute actually committed the crimes for which they’re being executed, it would be okay.  Then  I think, how can we be sure?
    My thoughts on the issue are a little clouded because a kid that was a high school classmate and friend of our oldest son was brutally murdered n what was basically a ‘joy’ killing.  The kid was doing his laundry in a laundromat late one night when another young man, who he didn’t know, came in, ordered him to lie face down on the floor, then shot him through the head.  The same killer then struck again the same way on the other side of town a couple of nights later.  In both cases the crime was caught on the surveillance camera, the guilty party was arrested, admitted to the crime, was convicted and executed (years later).  I can tell you that I had no qualms about that particular execution–in fact, I wish I could have watched it.  That probably says more about me than I would like to tell or that I’m comfortable even thinking about myself.  But that’s the way I felt at the time.
    Despite the above, if there were a vote on capital punishment, I would vote to eliminate it, and would encourage others to do the same.
    MRE

  4. That’s a major problem with our political and media systems. A politician that admits fault is chastized and risks their political career. That is why it is unfortunately so rare. We’re so left/right polarized that the lefties or righties will jump all over a Democrat or Republican that *gasp* admits to being human.
    Hi Scott–
    I know that’s what the politician’s think, and that’s probably why they react as they do.  But, I’m not sure that the voters wouldn’t appreciate a breath of fresh air instead of politics as usual.
    MRE

  5. Yeah, Occam’s Razor
    My favorite version: “If you hear hoofbeats, don’t go looking for zebras.”
    The chances are far better that the people responsible for the procedure screwed up, than that the man’s metabolism was an outlier.
    Hi LC–
    I think you’re on the money.
    BTW, the hoof beats/zebra deal is a big one in medicine.  All the way through medical training you run into people who, when confronted with a set of signs and symptoms, always try to come up with an exotic diagnosis instead of the most common, and likely, one.  Zebra hunters, they’re called.
    Another nifty phrase used a lot in medicine when considering a diagnosis is: common things are common.
    Cheers–
    MRE

  6. hypothetically…….. a group apologizing for inhumanely killing a man after 27 yrs in prison would be as hilarious as it is cruel.
    If you wanna off someone then kill them quick..for their sakes, their family and the fam of their victim (or supposed victim; if you read about his conviction it looks shaky); and to think he said I’m innocent apparently afore they administered the first dosage makes me feel shite..even if he was guilty. 27 yrs then death.  Phuq this is madness…truly and utterly.
    Hi Simon–
    As I said, I would vote against it.
    MRE

  7. Hi Mike,
    “On the other I think about how I would feel if someone brutally murdered one of my family members–would I feel okay if the perpetrator were simply put away for life?”
    The trouble is (as I’m sure you are aware)and putting aside the issue of potential miscarriages of justice, imagine what sort of society we would have if the punishment for crime was solely left in the hands of the victim, or the victim’s friends and family. I can well understand how I would feel if I was ever in your son’s position – forget the justice system, I would want to take revenge personally … but I also wouldn’t want to live in a country where that sort of behaviour and the ensuing escalation of violence was allowed, let alone encouraged.
    Sadly we now both live in countries where state sponsored torture is either permitted or ignored. While this clearly meets with the easily led and unthinking approval of many (hence the lack of scrutiny of those that oversee such policies) it does beg the question of exactly what societal standards we are currently trying to protect.
    Cheers,
    Malcolm
    Hey Malcolm–
    I agree with you.  That’s why, despite my ruminations about how I might feel were one of my loved one murdered, I would vote to end the death penalty in the US.
    Best–
    MRE

  8. Like so many things, it’s (capital punishment) a fine line, and not as easily black and white as some would like to believe, IMO.
    For one, it better be very clear the individual is guilty of the crime…no loose ends, as has been the case before in brutal crime cases.
    While it seems sadistic or barbaric to execute convicted murderers to some, there has to be some understanding of human nature here. There’s no question that the tougher the punishment and likelihood of being punished, it increases the deterrent factor for committing crimes–it’s human nature, something we’re all “stuck with.”
    Don’t tell me (not speaking to you, MRE) that there’s no correlation, because even not taking into account various studies, it should be inherently logical that the deterrent factor’s fully legit.
    Think yourself, for instance, as a youngster, or better yet, the bully down the street. Think if he believes there’s not going to be any consequences for his bad actions that he’ll be encouraged to do more of the same? You bet. The opposite applies too–if he knows he’s going to be met with harsh responses, he’ll think twice, guaranteed. That hesitation is proportional to the amount of pain he himself believes he’ll be paid back.
    There are, of course like with anything, extenuating circumstances, a bell-curve of conditions, as Dr Eades has noted. By and large, though, this principle holds, because it’s part of human nature.
    Hi Bert–
    Thanks for the comment.  I’m not up on the actual research, but I’ve read countless times that the death penalty is not a deterrent.  But, I don’t know because I haven’t read the real data on it.
    Best–
    MRE

  9. Wanting revenge is not the same as dispensing justice! I would prefer the killer be locked away for the term of his/her natural life than murdered as well. It might make the victims’ families feel better in the short term but then the criminal has people who love them as well & how do they feel when the state murders them? What are the long term effects of those left behind in all cases? If killing is wrong in one case then to be fare it has to be wrong in all cases no matter what the perception or justification we put on it. Personally I’d rather know the killer was suffering for their entire natural life without the benefit of parole, once they’re dead well that’s it, they might be gone but what they did will never be forgotten anyway.
    Hi Helen–
    My biggest problem with the death penalty aside from its barbarity is that once it takes place there is no undoing it.  If you throw someone in prison for life and it turns out that person didn’t commit the crime, you can let them out, and compensate them in some way for the mistake.  If there dead, you can be sorry as hell, but there’s not a lot you can do.
    MRE

  10. I’m against the death penalty also. My opinion is only strengthened when I see the Innocence Project help get people off death row. If they came that close to death as an innocent person I can’t believe that other innocent people haven’t been put to death before them.
    Hi Victoria–
    My point exactly.
    MRE

  11. My only problem with it is what kind of ‘injustices’ will the criminal commit once he/she is in prison for life? Gang violence and abuse in prisons is up due to the fact that “lifers” feel that there isn’t any more punishment that they can receive.
    Either way, it’s a hard decision and I’m just glad that I don’t have to be the one making it.
    Hello SPE–
    I’m with you. I’m glad I don’t have to make the decision.
    As to the ‘lifers’ who have no way to be held in check because they after all are in for life already… There is always solitary confinement. Or, better yet, the correctional officers could do like I did with my own children and beat them savagely for the most minor of infractions. I did so frequently for their good and my amusement.
    Love–
    Dad

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