Why America's Death Penalty Just Got Us Sanctioned by Europe

The European Union is now blocking importation of lethal injection technology into the United States

lethal i-body.jpg

Reuters

With its legislation this week limiting our access to the drugs we use to kill one another, the European Union has just proven that if America is still a superpower, that designation must carry a prominent asterisk for how easily we're humbled these days. The EU is now blocking importation of technology into the United States that we cannot be trusted to use properly. As widely reported yesterday, the EU is cutting off our supply to the drugs we use for lethal injections, some of which we no longer have the capacity to manufacture domestically:


The European Commission has imposed tough new restrictions on the export of anaesthetics used to execute people in the US, in a move that will exacerbate the already extreme shortage of the drugs in many of the 34 states that still practice the death penalty.

The EC has added eight barbiturates to its list of restricted products that are tightly controlled on the grounds that they may be used for "capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". The eight include pentobarbital and sodium thiopental - the two drugs on which almost all American executions currently depend. (Source: The Guardian)

America is now the target of a coercive technique that we've regularly used to punish Iran and North Korea. In our international diplomacy, such embargoes and sanctions are sometimes our last resort before military intervention. But before the EU schedules its armed infiltration of Huntsville, Texas, I have another suggestion that will add teeth to its new hard line policy: Roll out the kind of asset freezes and travel bans which are now punishing Syrian officials

I encourage the European Union to identify the key players who carry out the death penalty (including governors of the 34 capital punishment states), freeze any EU-based bank accounts and investments these individuals hold, and block their travel to and through European countries.
Responsible medical professionals have long since distanced themselves from the death penalty. Just as the American Psychological Association bans its member psychologists from participating in military torture techniques, the American Board of Anesthesiologists will decertify an anesthesiologist who helps with lethal injection. Unfortunately there is no similarly responsible organization to keep our statesmen and the legal profession at bay from continuing to oil the machinery of death in this country. 

The death penalty is a blind spot in our democracy, our own peculiar national anosognosia. It probably will take the rest of the world shouting us down in order to recognize our impairment. 

Andrew Cohen recently discussed the sorry sight of executioners scrambling to stockpile their toxic supplies after the last remaining American maker of sodium thiopental pulled out of the market. "What does it say about a state -- and a society -- that has to buy its lethal drugs on the sly through a private middleman, as Nebraska evidently did recently?," Cohen asked last week.

All of us who wish America were exceptional (but know it's not) must thank the EU for cranking up the decibels on this important, shameful question.
Presented by

Ford Vox, MD, is a physician, based in Atlanta, who specializes in caring for people with complex brain injuries. He has written for Newsweek, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Global

Just In