Botched Executions and the Prison of Ignorance
‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and a conscientious stupidity.’ Martin Luther King
Today’s graphic is not very pretty to look at, and the quote I used is less than poetic- and I can honestly say that my husband is to blame. He came home from work last night and set a page from the Wall Street Journal down on the counter in front of me. Its headline sent me scrambling up a soapbox that I am not yet ready to step down from.
Although I will use this article about a ‘botched’ death row execution as a springboard for what I am writing-my words have nothing to do with executions, inmates, civil rights, or anything else remotely bureaucratic, institutional, or political. It’s about something far more volatile; death. In particular, our ignorance about death.
After twenty years spent in the field of end of life care, I consider myself to be a death educator. When I say that out loud people will gasp and look at me like I just ran over their cat. Our ignorance about death-the natural life process we will all encounter, is pervasive. Current statistics tell us that less than 10% of the general public will die from a sudden event such as violence, a car accident, or a cardiovascular/neurological event. That leaves 90% of us making that final transition due to illness or age
There is public outcry if an inmate who is being executed gasps, squints, or twitches. If that inmate’s clinical death does not occur within seconds there is outrage that inhumane suffering has taken place.
REALLY???? For the 90% of our population who will approach the end of their lives due to illness or age-a one grunt and a few twitches final lap would be quite a luxury. Don’t let this frighten you, death is a very manageable process due to wonderful strides that have been made in palliative medicine. Comfort can be assured-but twitching, gasping, and all of the other things a body naturally does in the last moments of life cannot. Death is like birth-there is a process to it. This is not Hollywood-this is real life . . . and twitching is not the problem-ignorance is.
I am sure the media will continue to report on these ‘Botched Executions’ and the public will continue to display outrage at these ‘inhumane deaths’ , but it is not compassion, human rights, or anything else even remotely noble that is fueling the debate-it’s ignorance. Ignorance is the real prison– and the only key that is going to free anyone-is wisdom.
MLK-you were so very right when you said it: ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and a conscientious stupidity.’