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No Right To A Painless Death

Posted on 2nd April 2019

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This report on the BBC is very disappointing.

A prisoner, Russell Bucklew, on death row in Missouri has failed in his legal attempt to be executed by his preferred method. He claims that he has a medical condition, and that the state's standard execution technique, lethal injection, will cause him excessive pain and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. He wants to be executed by gas.

The US Supreme Court has just ruled that prisoners have no right to a painless death. This is really shocking.

"The eighth amendment [to the US constitution] forbids 'cruel and unusual' methods of capital punishment but does not guarantee a prisoner a painless death," wrote Justice Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017.

Leaving aside for a moment the arguments about whether capital punishment is just and fair, the idea that the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment does not extend to executions is an utterly bizarre legal interpretation, and is simply downright wrong.

If the court which sentenced Mr. Bucklew felt that he should suffer during his death, then they should have sentenced him to a painful death (which could then have been legally challenged, since it is illegal under the constitution); the court, however, did not, and it should be beyond the authority of the Missouri penitentiary system to subject him to such a painful death.

It seems that the US legal system is broken. The US constitution is the ultimate law in the USA, and there is a vast difference between interpreting that law, and bending it to the political views of the supreme court judges.

It also again makes to the case that the USA, due to its lack of protection of human rights, and its demonstrated failure to uphold the rule of law, should be branded a rogue nation.