We’re only going to kill him if it doesn’t hurt

Okay, am I the only one who thinks this whole story is just completely bonkers?

A CONVICTED murderer in California was due to be put to death with a new kind of injection in the early hours of this morning after a federal judge ruled for the first time that the usual method may inflict “excessive pain”.

The execution of Michael Morales, who has spent 23 years on death row for the torture, rape and murder of a teenager, had been due to take place 24 hours earlier but was thrown into turmoil after the anaesthetists suddenly refused their services on ethical grounds.

Apparently the concern is that the drug they were going to use would cause the convicted killer some pain – possibly agonizing pain – while they were killing him.

How modern this is: it’s not the killing that’s the problem, just the pain that accompanies it.


If you’re going to go so far as to execute a convicted criminal, in most cases and in reasonable circumstances that is the most violent and painful and permanent punishment you can possibly impose on him. A few minutes of pain, frankly, is no big deal compared to dying. Even agonizing pain.

On the other hand, if you are so squeamish that you don’t want to be causing any pain at all, why on earth are you killing people? That’s the worst pain – when you define pain as negative stimulus – that you can imagine.

I’m reminded of Spider Robinson’s characterization of the years leading up to the millenium: the crazy years.

These are crazy years too. We’re only going to kill people if it doesn’t hurt.