In liberal circles the case of Troy Davis, a black Georgia recently executed, has caused much discussion and outrage. Mr. Davis was innocent, many say, and the death penalty is inhumane anyways. Opponents counter that Mr. Davis deserved what he got for the crimes that he committed.
I personally don’t know enough about the case to really comment, nor do I really have an opinion about the appropriateness of the death penalty. But there does seem to be validity to the claim that the current method of executing individuals – lethal injection – can cause severe pain. This is especially true when injection is done incorrectly, which has sometimes happened.
Which is why I have a – slightly satirical – suggestion to those worried about the suffering caused by lethal injection: Why not use the guillotine?
The guillotine is one of the most humane, least painful, and quickest ways to execute a person possible. After a mere couple of seconds, a person falls unconscious. He or she dies after thirteen seconds, not a lot of time to suffer even if you hadn’t fell into a coma during the first two seconds of having your head severed from your body.
Better yet, the guillotine always works. There are multiple instances of lethal injection and the electric chair not working properly – and thus causing extreme pain to the sentenced. In contrast, there doesn’t seem to be a single instance in recorded history of the guillotine failing to chop off the sentenced’s head. That’s quite something, considering the number of times it was used in the French Revolution.
A person might argue that the guillotine causes considerable mental suffering to the sentenced. But what method of execution does not? It’s hard to believe that a person being led to the guillotine suffers more in his or her mind than a person being led to a lethal injection bed.
Of course, the real reason why America’s justice system doesn’t use the guillotine is because it causes such revulsion amongst the wider public. The guillotine gets a pretty bad rap due to the French Revolution. More importantly, seeing decapitated heads tends to do wonders to the polling numbers of death penalty opponents.
Nevertheless, there is definitely merit to say that execution by the guillotine is more humane than execution by lethal injection. Lethal injection is much less distressful for the public, but sometimes much more painful for the sentenced (if, for instance, there’s a problem with the dosage). The guillotine is much more distressful for the public, but causes much less suffering for the sentenced. The fact that America executes through lethal injection rather than the guillotine says a lot about human nature.