WASHINGTON (CN) – The U.S. Supreme Court examined on Monday whether the three-drug cocktail method of lethal injection for condemned inmates constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
Opponents claim lethal injection is unconstitutionally cruel because it can cause the prisoner to suffocate while they were conscious but paralyzed.
Thirty-seven states use a cocktail of sodium Pentothal, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride. The first drug purportedly anesthetizes inmates, the second paralyzes them and the third causes cardiac arrest.
Proponents argue that the risk for pain and suffering under the current protocol is eliminated if the 3 grams of sodium Pentothal – more than 10 times the surgical dose – is delivered correctly.
The high court has blocked all executions while it considers the issue.