Jack Tame: US yet to have last word on killing

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Kenneth Hogan.
Kenneth Hogan.

Whether in pain or peace, there's a morbid romance to the final words we each utter on this earth.

Facing immediate mortality and the fickleness of existence, many on their deathbeds will whisper a simple prayer.

The poets among us might hope to expel some profound philosophical vignette.

But many of us, with our final breath, wish only to offer comfort and love to those we hold closest.

Consider then the final words of Michael Wilson, who last month was executed in Oklahoma for a particularly brutal murder.

Strapped to a gurney, surrounded by sobbing family, the 38-year-old's final sentence came within seconds of the lethal injection.

"I feel my whole body burning."

Ohio inmate Denis McGuire was also executed last month with similar gruesome concern.

Witnesses report McGuire spent as long as 26 minutes gurgling and gasping, as a previously untested blend of chemicals flooded his body and stopped his heart.

The problem with killing cleanly all comes down to drugs.

American authorities rely on European manufacturers to produce the tried-and-true concoction that makes your everyday Timothy McVeigh-style lethal injection.

But now, an increasingly ballsy European Union is making it harder than ever to kill American prisoners.

Whether to Vietnam or its biggest ally, the EU flat-out refuses to export drugs for execution and authorities in the US have been left to improvise with the stuff they put in the syringe.

The shortage of traditional death drugs isn't necessarily great news for anyone on death row.

Though Wilson and McGuire's deaths may have come about in terrible pain, it's not as though anyone can ask the men to elaborate on their experiences.

Worse still, some states that have run dry of drugs are considering a return to firing squads, gas chambers or the electric chair.

I wonder how many agonising expirations it will take before the US considers why the Europeans set their rules in the first place.

Life in prison may be only marginally less barbaric than state-ordered death.

But mark my words. And mark Michael Wilson's.

I'd take that margin any day.

- Herald on Sunday

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