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J Forensic Sci. 2002 Jul;47(4):847-51.

Medical aspects of capital punishment executions.

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  • 1Northwest Clinical Research Center, Bellevue, WA, USA.


Between 1976 and the middle of 2001, approximately 718 human executions occurred in the U.S. (a small segment of worldwide executions). Data regarding the medical aspects of these executions are not readily available. We searched all public domain data in the U.S. to obtain specific data for all persons executed in the U.S. since 1976. Of the five methods of execution used (lethal injection, lethal gas, electrocution, hanging, and firing squad), significant differences emerged as measured by rate of complications, duration of time spent by the condemned in the "death chamber," as well as duration of time from the onset of execution procedures to pronouncement of death. These data suggest that human executions are difficult to carry out. Human executions are associated with significant physical complications. These data may help inform future discussions on human executions.

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