Title: Anomalies: Ritual and Language in Lethal Injection Regulations
Author: Leigh B. Bienen
Publisher: Fordham Urban Law Journal
Issue: Volume 35, No. 4
Description: The state lethal injection protocols do not regulate lethal injections, but instead describe hypothetical rituals meant to reassure the reader—whomever that might be—that a controlled and orderly process, in accordance with the rule of law, will take place.
Epigraph: Culture, in the sense of the public, standardized values of a community, mediates the experience of individuals. It provides in advance some basic categories, a positive pattern in which ideas and values are tidily ordered. And above all, it has authority, since each is induced to assent because of the assent of others. But its public character makes its categories more rigid…. Any given system of classification must give rise to anomalies, and any given culture must confront events which seem to defy its assumptions. It [the culture] cannot ignore the anomalies which its scheme produces, except at risk of forfeiting confidence.
When a horse, a cow, a dog, or a grizzly bear is killed under the authority of the government, or by a private party in a planned euthanasia, the veterinarian performing the execution will follow euthanasia guidelines adopted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (“AVMA Guidelines”) for the method of euthanasia to be used, including any drugs, restraints, and anesthetics required, so that the pain to the animal is minimized. Guidelines are directed to the humane death of animals: It is our responsibility as veterinarians and human beings to ensure that if an animal’s life is to be taken, it is done with the highest degree of respect, and with an emphasis on making the death as painless and distress free as possible. Euthanasia techniques [for animals] should result in rapid loss of consciousness followed by a cardiac or respiratory arrest and ultimate loss of. brain function. In addition, the technique should minimize distress and anxiety experienced by the animal prior to loss of consciousness. The AVMA Guidelines provide a technical description of stimuli, neural pathways, receptors, feedback, and other scientific topics and terminology before focusing on a description of the anticipated pain for the animal and its prevention. The Guidelines explain that the sensation of pain “results from nerve impulses reaching the cerebral cortex via ascending neural pathways.” Therefore, the Guidelines continue, to the best of our knowledge, pain is perceived only under certain circumstances…