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Nitrogen: Good or Bad?

I'm confused. Really, really confused. I found this article on The Economist: Why execution by nitrogen gas is so controversial. The article lambasts using nitrogen as an execution method. Reading the article, I found several rather idiotic points that I am compelled to point out.

First, according to the article, An anesthesia mask is placed over the mouth and nose of the condemned. That right there is not the best way. A helmet or a total enclosure (such as the classic cyanide gas chamber) is better for the "delivery" of the gas.

Second, this quote proves the idiocy of the source, and the author of the article:

"Moreover, if a prisoner's mask is not placed correctly, nitrogen could leak, putting other people in the room, such as a spiritual advisor, at risk."

Oxygen comprises about 21% of the air we breathe. We don't start getting into hypoxia until it falls below 17%. Math (and common sense) shows that to drop the oxygen level that much in a small room (10 feet square or so), the nitrogen would have to flood the room at several hundred liters per minute. Those kind of masks deliver 8-10 liters a minute at most. To deliver more than that risks rupturing the lungs, called a pneumothorax (collapsed lung; a very painful experience). I learned about this when I became a SCUBA diving instructor; I had to help a guy who developed one on the shore. You could run that mask at full blast while it sits there on the table by itself and no one would notice. The freaking HVAC system for that room moves more air in and out, so this is total garbage.

Then they mention the American Veterinary Medical Association in their 2020 guidelines wrote that, according to the article,

"...nitrogen hypoxia is not an acceptable euthanasia method for most mammals because it is "distressing."

The article didn't note that nitrogen hypoxia is okay with the Vets when the animal is sedated/unconscious. However. on the same page (page 58), the guidelines express approval of using carbon dioxide (CO2) as an "Inhaled Agent." Hang on, I have to step away for a moment, the stupidity is making me very angry.

If you are familiar at all with the respiratory cycle of all air-breathing creatures, you know that it is not the lack of oxygen in our system that makes us inhale, it is the build up of the waste gas CO2 that triggers the action to inhale. So when the air you breathe has more than 2% CO2, you start to feel like you're suffocating (you are). You normally exhale <1% CO2, which is why mouth-to-mouth resuscitation doesn't kill either person. When you exhale <1% and breathe in >2%, the body panics. The medical term is hypercapnia.

As a side note, carbon monoxide (CO, produced by incomplete combustion) is also approved by these quacks. CO is about 250 times more soluble in blood than oxygen (O2). The red platelets in your blood that transport the O2 from your lungs to the cells of your body can only hold on to that O2 for a few seconds before the platelet has to dump it (think that you're carrying a large box around. Not heavy, just awkward and hard to handle). The platelet is quite comfortable carrying CO around. This is why just a few whiffs of CO-laden air can kill you. All of a sudden, no platelets are available to carry O2, they're all carrying CO. And before you know it, you're in hypoxia.

By using nitrogen hypoxia, you are exhaling your CO2, so you don't notice anything. If you're inhaling >90% nitrogen, you're not getting enough O2. Again, your system is keyed to CO2 build up, not O2 intake. You get a euphoric feeling as your brain cells die. It's the same euphoria one gets taking illicit drugs, but I digress.

The article also states:

Several weeks before Mr. Smith's execution, the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights warned that the procedure could amount to torture.

REALLY? Color me shocked. I trust/believe what the UN says less than I do CNN, and my trust in CNN can only be expressed in large negative numbers...

Then, we have an article like this: Controversial ‘suicide pod’ that ‘kills peacefully’ gets go-ahead in Switzerland. This device, called a "Sarco" is a suicide pod that the person climbs into, then answers some questions and once the questions are answered correctly, the person inside can press a button to start the process. The pod is quickly flooded with nitrogen, dropping the O2 level to about 1% in 30 seconds. Hypoxia and death quickly follow.

Before I get into my questions I would like to ask these idiots, I want to make something clear. The body of any animal will always try to survive. The consciousness may be gone (inoperative by sedation or hypoxia), but the body will fight. Muscles will twitch and contract in their death throes. if we don't shit or piss ourselves in these throes, we certainly will when those muscles die and relax, no longer holding back those fluids. It's not a pretty sight. Please, don't conflate these last spasms of attempted survival to the consciousness that once occupied that body.

So, I naturally have some questions:

  • How can nitrogen hypoxia be a method of torture and an acceptable method of suicide?
  • If nitrogen hypoxia is not allowed to kill animals, but CO and CO2 are, why can't we use CO or CO2 to execute people?

Personally, I agree with the Russian method of execution. Strap the condemned into a chair, let them have their last words and during it, shoot them in the "apricot," Which the medical term is the medulla oblongata in that soft area in the back of your head just below the skull. The medulla oblongata controls the autonomous bodily functions (heartbeat, et.al.,), and it relays commands from the brain to the rest of the body. It's the best "off switch" to end someone instantaneously, without pain or perception that they're dying, like if you shot them in the heart. A hostage taker with a gun on a hostage, if hit there will never have the chance to pull the trigger. The connection will be severed before the signal can be sent.

After the execution, the family of the executed are billed for the cost of the bullet.

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