Death by hypoxia

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This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  PopeBeanie 3 weeks, 2 days ago.

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    First off, I’m against capital punishment. But if the state’s going to execute someone, I still care about doing it as humanely as possible. I’ll talk some about that, while it really bugs me how incorrect assumptions are being made and added to the story of the recent execution in Alabama.

    A reporter from the New York Post actually said that Nitrogen is toxic. Maybe it was just a mistake made as the result of an emotional response to the execution. Sorry, no, not even full breaths of Nitrogen are the least bit toxic. Four fifths of the air we all breathe in every breath is Nitrogen, and one fifth is Oxygen. The cause of death is long term removal of Oxygen from the mix. It’s that simple.

    As for what was reported to have happened during this execution, the patient [my preferred word] began writhing immediately, for two minutes, as if in pain. I’m going out on a limb here, to say that I think it was an act, or panic. You don’t feel anything different right away when your air has no oxygen. People take full breaths of helium at parties, no problem.

    What happens to the body when it runs on lower and lower oxygen level? I know from experience, when I intentionally stop breathing, an oximeter clamped on my finger doesn’t measure a lower oxygen level until about twenty seconds later. From taking anatomy and physiology classes, I’ll guess that maybe it takes up to five seconds for the brain to start getting less oxygenated blood. What happens next, over minutes, is what matters most. Losing consciousness before death is a given. I’m don’t know for sure what happens over the next several minutes. Seizures while unconscious is a guess, jarring people looking on.

    In my underwater commercial dive school training, I was taught that the first signs of oxygen deprivation are a loss of ability to focus on things, and an increase in breathing rate. Part of our training was to swim down a thirty foot high tank of water, with no fins, find the scuba tank and air mouthpiece, and breathe from it before coming back up. I can tell you, an expected side-effect, especially pronounced in some people, is a kind of panic! (I felt relatively calm, knowing that even if I failed, I’d be immediately recovered and attended to as necessary.) I did fine. The thirty foot trip back up is risky too, as air in your lungs can expand about twice in volume unless you let air out while rising to the surface. You’re trained to blow out air during rises by habit, long before facing the water tank challenge.

    But I digress, or maybe I’m showing off.

    Some jet pilots and divers have experienced oxygen deprivation. They should be interviewed.

    So learning about what’s actually happening during an execution by oxygen deprivation is not rocket science. If there is, in fact, a period of suffering, then it’s easy enough to just put someone “under” first, like anesthesiologists do before major surgery.

    I’d ignore most of speculation you’ll keep hearing in this story. I’d bet that a lot of the eye witnesses to the execution make bad assumptions, too. It’s a seriously emotional event. (I would outlaw all executions.)

    • This topic was modified 1 month ago by  PopeBeanie.


    Can anyone tell me why a simple overdose of morphine or (better?) fentanyl isn’t used? I don’t think such deaths are painful or even distressing to the subject. People overdose all the time and are found lying peacefully with the needle still in their arm, no sign of struggle.

    If I wanted to off myself, as a diabetic I could simply give myself a super-high dose of insulin. Based on the one time I did pass out, I believe that—had I not ingested some sugar quickly when I realized I was in trouble—I would have simply drifted into unconsciousness followed by death.

    Someone tell me, what is so hard about the mechanics of capital punishment.

    Give the miscreant a dose of fentanyl. He’s gone.



    Yeah, anything not unpleasant, and without causing convulsions.

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