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Lethal injection

Lethal injection is a means of capital punishment. It gained popularity in the 20th century as an attempt at a humane approach to supplant methods such as electrocution, hanging, shooting or decapitation.

The USA was the first nation to experiment with lethal injection, using it first on December 7, 1982. The concept had been proposed in 1888 by J. Mount Bleyer in New York, but the concept was not approved. It was also rejected by the British Royal Commission on Capital Punishment[?] (1949-1953) after pressure from the BMA. The idea was revived in the US in February 1977 by Dr. Stanley Deutsch in Oklahoma. The method was adopted by that state in 1977 but was first used in Texas. Since then, the majority of US states using capital punishment prefer to use lethal injection. The practice extended outside the US with China using the method in 1997, Guatemala in 1998 and the Philippines followed in 1999, a number of other countries have adopted the method in law but not in practice.

The injection is intravenous and is usually a mix of compounds, designed to induce rapid unconsciousness followed by death through muscular paralysis of the lungs or by inducing cardiac depolarisation. In the US sodium thiopental is the common agent to bring unconsciousness, with succinylcholine chloride, pancuronium bromide, or tubocurarine chloride[?] being the paralysing drug or potassium chloride to cause the cardiac arrest. Death is usually caused within five minutes, although the entire procedure can take up to 45 minutes. The individual drugs are not mixed externally as they can precipitate, they are usually injected in sequence into one or two intravenous tubes.

The concern has been raised that the death is not actually humane. It has been argued that the paralysing agent masks the distress of the prisoners and they still suffer the pain of suffocation. There have also been difficulties inserting the delivery needles, on occasion it has taken over thirty minutes to find a suitable vein. Certain executions have also been marked by a surprisingly violent reaction to the injected drugs.

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