Friday, August 29, 2014
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They put down animals, don't they?

If turning to the drug commonly used to euthanize animals gives citizens pause over the execution of convicted murderers, that could be a good thing.

They put down animals, don't they?

The practice of state-ordered execution just got a bit more unsettling, with Ohio's announcement that it will become the second state to execute murder convicts with the same lethal injection used to euthanize animals.

Because there's a shortage of a key drug used in lethal injections - and the only U.S. manufacturer last week said it was halting its production - Ohio officials said Tuesday that they plan to use a powerful dose of pentobarbital. The drug is well-known to veterinarians, who use it to euthanize terminally ill pets.

Comparisons between executions and the process of putting a beloved pet out of its misery might be unfair, but they're unavoidable now.

Oklahoma made the switch last year, but Ohio will be the first state to use pentobarbital without two other drugs that paralyze and stop the heart as a means of making the process more humane.

Now the popular characterization of some killers as "animals" will have more than a ring of truth to it - at least, in terms of how states will be dispatching them to eternity.

But the fact remains that the whole apparatus of state-sanctioned executions is awful to comprehend, all the more so with this use of a drug pulled from your local vet's medicine cabinet.

It also beyond dispute that prosecutors, judges and juries have erred in sending people to death row who were exonerated later. That's the big risk - that an innocent person will be executed. It's why the punishment for first-degree murder should be reduced to life without parole in Pennsylvania and the other states that still execute.

If more states turn to a method that means murder convicts will be "put down," literally, that should be all the more reason for Americans to demand an end to this barbaric practice.

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The Inquirer Editorial Board's Say What? opinion blog showcases the work of the editors and writers who produce the newspaper's daily and Sunday opinion pages.

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