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The Exit Internationalist

January 24, 2024

First Nitrogen Hypoxia Execution Sets Right to Die Movement back 20 Years

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First Nitrogen Hypoxia Execution Sets Right to Die Movement back 20 Years

The first planned use of Nitrogen Gas to execute Kenneth Smith at Holman Corrections Centre, Alabama this Thursday has created heightened confusion as to whether this is a ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ or if this untried execution procedure will really provide a planned peaceful reliable death.

The methodology to be adopted by the State of Alabama involves a facemask that will be strapped to the inmate’s face.

Media reports have stated that Smith will likely experience a slow, torturous suffocation which could be complicated by the aspiration of vomit.

Exit International Founder and Director and right to die activist, Philip Nitschke, has been an expert witness in the case appearing in Alabama court proceedings on 20 December on behalf of Smith’s defence lawyers. The injunction seeks to prevent Smith’s pending execution.

Of Nitrogen hypoxia, Dr Nitschke says:

‘Nitrogen hypoxia has been advocated for over 15 years by the right to die movement as an effective way to obtain a quick, peaceful and reliable Do It Yourself (DIY) death.

Many in the movement are now asking if the method is as peaceful as claimed, given the gruesome accounts of the planned execution in the media.

‘Elderly people around the world are now asking whether they should reconsider their plan to use this method and asking where the truth lies. They want to know why the Alabama ‘experiment’ has prompted such negative reaction?’

The confusion that has been created in media coverage of the planned execution is doing ‘considerable damage’ and has ‘set the movement back at least 20 years’.

‘What has been missed in the discussion is that there is a huge difference between when a person immerses him/herself in an oxygen-free environment using an open ‘Exit bag’ because they want to die, and the planned closed system of the facemask that Alabama wants to use’. In the Alabama experiment, the condemned prisoner has a mask forcibly strapped to their face and is then expected to cooperate in their own death!’

‘I have seen and tried on this mask. It covers that covers the nose and mouth and looks like something from a horror movie’ says Nitschke.

Problems inherent in the facemask approach include: user resistance to wearing the mask, poor mask-fitting (eg due to facial hair), air leakage during the process and breath holding and gasping. Brain damage remains a ‘distinct possibility’ according to Dr Nitschke.

Dr Nitschke visited Holman execution centre in December 2023, inspected the planned mask and had it fitted by the State’s attorney while he positioned himself on the execution gurney.

‘The Alabama execution plans to use a closed face mask and this is nothing like the peaceful ‘open’ system that we use in the right to die movement’.

‘The right to die movement abandoned the use of facemasks over 15 years ago because they are dangerous and ineffective.

‘Alabama is trying to use a cheap and nasty ‘one size fits all’ face-mask, hoping it will solve the problems associated with lethal injections where access to lethal drugs and problems in obtaining access to veins of prisoners has led to repeated failures.

A previous attempt at execution Smith using pentobarbital took more than three hours and was eventually abandoned after a suitable vein could not be located.

‘This is why the State of Alabama is is now experimenting on him with the ‘new’ nitrogen hypoxia method’ says Nitschke.

Dr Nitschke said he was ‘disappointed that the Alabama Corrections Department had not learned from the extensive trial and error experience of the right to die movement.

‘Indeed, the right to die movement is the only segment within society that has any experience in using nitrogen hypoxia to end human life.

‘The risks that Alabama Corrections are taking in their new execution protocol could have been avoided if they had bothered to research the issue in more detail.

Exit International is now having to produce a detailed update on nitrogen hypoxic death to explain to members why the method can be so effective for those wishing to end their own lives.

The update explains why nitrogen hypoxia remains a highly effective, peaceful and reliable method of elective death and it explains why facemasks should never be used.

Philip Nitschke, Kenny Smith & Robert Grass

Philip Nitschke, Kenny Smith & Robert Grass Holman Prison, Alabama, 13 December 2023

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