After Botching Lethal Injections, Oklahoma is Looking to Legalize the Gas Chamber
Since the current three-drug lethal injection method is catching so much heat, the Oklahoma House of Representatives have approved gassing.
After a couple of highly publicized botched executions in the state, Oklahoma lawmakers began searching for a more reliable and humane method of carrying out capital punishment. In searching for such a method, nitrogen hypoxia is the front runner.
While it sounds scary enough, the process is relatively peaceful. Oxygen would be gently replaced by nitrogen, and the person breathing it would lull off to sleep, dying in the process.
When humans breathe in an asphyxiant gas, such as pure nitrogen or any other physiologically inert gas, they exhale carbon dioxide without re-supplying oxygen. Physiologically inert gases (those that have no toxic effect, but merely dilute oxygen) are generally free of odor and taste. As such, the human subject detects little abnormal sensation as the oxygen level falls. This leads to asphyxiation (death from lack of oxygen) without the painful and traumatic feeling of suffocation, or the side effects of poisoning. In scuba diving rebreather accidents, there is often little sensation but euphoria—however, a slow decrease in oxygen breathing gas content has effects which are quite variable.By contrast, suddenly breathing pure inert gas causes oxygen levels in the blood to fall precipitously, and may lead to unconsciousness in only a few breaths, with no symptoms at all.
State Rep Mike Christian, who authored HB 1879, said:
"Nitrogen hypoxia is a better way. It's a more humane way. I believe the use of nitrogen hypoxia will be the thing of the future once it’s passed in Oklahoma,"
While progress is being made, it still hasn't been decided if this method of execution would be administered via a mask, or if the sentenced would be locked away into a sealed gas chamber.
The bill has now been moved to the Oklahoma Senate for consideration.