Why the Guillotine May Be Less Cruel Than Execution by Slow Poisoning

Janine Lanza

Concerns about the drugs used for executions are being raised again after the federal government announced it will once again execute inmates convicted of capital crimes almost 16 years after the last execution was carried out.

International drug companies will no longer sell drugs for use in lethal injections in the United States. But Attorney General William Barr has authorized the federal justice system to use the widely available drug pentobarbital, despite concerns about whether that method violates the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. In common use, the drug controls seizures in humans and is often used to euthanize pets.

In 2014, several executions carried out by states with untested methods using a mixture of drugs caused suffering and took hours to end prisoners’ lives.

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