Amnesty International is a non-governmental international organization that often campaigns against human rights abuse and calls for international compliance to standards of ethics. Lethal injection is the standard method of execution in the United States.


Amnesty has issued a report stating that the cocktail of drugs used in lethal injections can cause excruciating pain and can also cause paralysis so that the convict can’t scream or in any way show that they are in pain. 

This pain can be caused because the drug that causes unconsciousness can wear off before the heart stops but the prisoner may remain paralyzed which doesn’t allow him/her to indicate his/her suffering. Amnesty is calling this a ‘chemical straitjacket’. As we all well know, the 8th Amendment to that good old Constitution states, in these very words, that:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

The question becomes, what classifies as “cruel AND unusual punishment”. Clever wording in fact because this seems to allow cruel punishments as long as they aren’t unusual and unusual punishments are fair game as long as they are not cruel. Cruelty as far as punishments goes is usually defined as causing extreme physical anguish. How should we define unusual?

How about this for unusual: Texas (my home state), the state that leads the US in deaths by lethal injection, has banned the same drugs used in lethal injections for use in dogs and cats because of the potential for suffering. That makes no sense to me. Did the government already understand the probability of a prisoner suffering extreme pain by lethal injection?

Does lethal injection qualify as cruel AND unusual punishment?