Segments in this Video

Painless Executions: Are They Possible? (03:42)


Controversy over the state-sponsored killings has raged for centuries. Botched killings raise issues about the humaneness of capital punishment. Should executions be painless? Is lethal injection scientifically sound?

Lethal Injection: Humane? (02:37)

Coroner and eyewitness reports from across America suggest that lack of expertise in the execution chamber can result in painful deaths. Ill-trained technicians may be undermining the credibility of lethal injections.

Pain from Lethal Injections (02:40)

Controversy over lethal injection surrounds one of the drugs used in the lethal "cocktail." The drug acts as a paralytic to muscles during surgery, but can cause pain is some patients. Many believe the drug cases extreme pain to inmates.

Methods of Execution: Science of Hanging (04:02)

Hanging is a method of execution in several countries including Japan, Iran, Singapore, and two states in America. Historically, short-drop hangings resulted in slow suffocation. A longer hangman's rope may be more humane, but may also behead.

Hanging: An Imperfect Method of Execution (01:47)

A scientist demonstrates the differences between British and American tables that help calculate the length of the hangman's rope. Anatomical variables make it impossible to design a "correct" table of weights relative to rope length.

Execution by Electrocution (04:15)

The electric chair is still available in 10 American states and was last used in 2007. There are no scientific studies on this method of execution. A demonstration on a dead pig shows what happens when 2500 volts course through the pig.

Electric Chair: Torture? (02:42)

It is standard practice to shock an inmate 2 or 3 times to insure death. Improper techniques cause "horrific" burns prior to death. This amounts to torture in some people's opinions.

Death by Cyanide Gas (02:19)

Cyanide gas was used as a killing agent during WWI and again by the Nazis as part of their genocide program. This method of death is available in 5 states in America. The subject dies by asphyxiation. Warning: Graphic animal cruelty.

Gas Chamber: Painful Death (03:12)

Volunteers experience a modified dosage of cyanide gas to determine their ability to breathe slowly and calmly. They find it impossible, a clear indication that inmates suffer pain and anguish during gas asphyxiation.

Euthanasia Studies Reveal Painless Death (02:56)

The film host's study of methods of execution available today leads him to conclude that none of the methods are humane. Studies in animal euthanasia lead scientists to hypoxia as a painless agent of death.

G-Forces and Hypoxia (04:39)

Pilots often experience hypoxia during flight maneuvers. In a human centrifuge, the film host experiences powerful G-forces that bring him to the brink of death by gravity-induced hypoxia.

Oxygen Starvation (03:40)

In an altitude chamber, the film host experiences lack of oxygen to his brain. Oxygen starvation makes him feel "drunk," euphoric, and over-confident. Yet, the more hypoxic he becomes and the nearer to death, the less he cares or notices.

Hypoxia: Perfect Way to Die? (04:26)

Because oxygen starvation brings on euphoria prior to unconsciousness and death, some believe it may be the "perfect" method of execution. It would be painless and emotionally stress-free. Can this method be implemented as a killing mechanism?

Nitrogen: Humane Killing Method (03:57)

Science does provide an answer for a humane method of execution. Gas-induced hypoxia, already used as a humane method for killing animals, has obvious potential for human executions. Death penalty advocates want painful death for inmates.

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How to Kill a Human Being: Methods of Execution



Is a humane and painless execution method possible, and if so, would death penalty proponents support its use? Or is pain the whole idea? Examining what many see as the cruelty of current procedures, this program searches for a viable alternative. Experts in the death business—retired executioners, toxicologists, biomechanics specialists, and others—explain disturbing flaws in the use of electrocution, hanging, lethal injection, and the gas chamber. Whether or not physicians should take part in executions is also discussed. The film presents a low-cost killing method that would induce euphoria—but this horrifies a prominent death penalty lobbyist because offenders wouldn’t suffer. A BBC Production. (50 minutes)

Length: 51 minutes

Item#: This title is currently not available.

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

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