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Death Penalty Alternative

Medical Guinea Pig Option
  (+16, -6)(+16, -6)
(+16, -6)
  [vote for,

Offer death row inmates the option of volunteering for dangerous medical testing (e.g. AIDS vaccine - almost impossible to test, due to the risk of infecting the patient). This would give the condemned a chance to make some kind of positive contribution to society, rather than just another pointless death (or equally pointless lifetime in prison). Perhaps if they survive and/or a medical breakthrough results, their act of courage would earn them some degree of clemency.

Note to Dr. Mengele types, et al: this is the prisioner's choice, with a clear disclaimer of risks (although the death sentence does make for some considerable duress).

lsenater, Oct 28 2001

Existing AIDS research on prisoners http://www.sptimes....s_raised_over.shtml
[jutta, Oct 28 2001, last modified Jun 05 2006]

The Visible Human Project http://www.nlm.nih..../visible_human.html
//This would give the condemned a chance to make some kind of positive contribution to society//, like these two did - in death. [sdm, Oct 28 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html
would have something to say about this... [sdm, Oct 28 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]

look like the u.s. government has already been doing this... http://www.sfgate.c...1/10/28/MN50317.DTL
...except not with inmates, and without anyone's permission. [mihali, Oct 28 2001, last modified Oct 04 2004]


       AIDS vaccines etc. are testable (and are being tested) by comparing results in similar high-risk subgroups, one vaccinated, one not.
jutta, Oct 28 2001

       Thanks for the informative link - very balanced & in-depth. I was thinking mainly of "live-attenuated" vaccines like the one for polio, which uses a weakened version of the virus to trigger immune response -- testing these can risk infection.
lsenater, Oct 28 2001

       As he said, it's an option, not a requirement.   

       Personally, if people are going to whine about executions and animal testing, I think the inmates that they've decided to keep forever should be used as test animals.
StarChaser, Oct 28 2001

       UB - Question isn't as compilcated as it appears if you leave out the issue of whether capital punishment is good or bad. Within a society that has already decided to go with capital punishement, the issue becomes simply: should the condemned be given any say as to the manner of his/her execution? Why not, especially if some greater good might come of it?   

       Mind you, given the choice, I think you made a pretty compelling case for the 8" bolt to the brainstem in your annotation to 'Infidel specific bio-weapon'.
lsenater, Oct 28 2001

       It's not just whether you have a say in how you die. US constitution amendment VIII precludes "cruel and unusual punishment". I think this would apply at least to prolonged fatal medical testing.
jutta, Oct 28 2001

       I know...but I like the idea anyway.   

       My annotation was actually two parts...if they volunteer for the testing, it's not punishment.
StarChaser, Oct 28 2001


You can already volunteer for medical experiments. If an inmate is allowed to do this to save his ass if he wants, it's neither cruel nor unusual since it isn't actually punishment, more of a "please don't kill me" plea. If it involved some mad doctor with an evil laugh and straps and tables and whips and chains and the prisoner screaming and lasers and donkeys and a spork I'm sure it would be something cruel and unusual, but "here, take this pill. You might get a little sick," is hardly worse than ol' sparky malfunctioning and only severely burning the inmate.

On the other hand, what would become of the inmate? A lifetime as a lab rat? Would he be unleashed on society again once he's served enough time testing medicine?
AfroAssault, Oct 29 2001

       People. If you're ever on a campus and you see a sign "help wanted for trial of new drug, pays $5, contact the *toxicology* department" - don't do it.   

       I bet this idea would pass an ethics board if the prisoners were offered some superficial financial incentive and the fact that they are prisoners on death row were somehow overlooked. It only becomes a crime & punishment issue if you consider the tests a form of execution. Semantics, really.
sdm, Oct 29 2001

       No! Not the spork... anything but the spork!
mighty_cheese, Oct 29 2001

       Yeah, I have to say I think it would be better if the inmate performed the service for renumberation rather than clemency. After all, the drug in question must have at least the expectation of curing something without inducing something worse in the patient.
But then the question becomes "Why can't everyone take part?". The answer, of course, is that they can. It's the prisoners who are excluded.
phoenix, Oct 29 2001

       I'm no expert on the US judicial system, but given, as [jutta] says, that Amendment VIII precludes certain forms of punishment, could not a further Amendment amend it?
angel, Oct 29 2001

       [phoenix], //the drug in question must have at least the expectation of curing something without inducing something worse in the patient.//   

       I think the original idea was that the drug either cure the patient completely, or render them a lifeless carbon-based goo. Researchers would have trouble finding people with *that much* to lose on a whim, so they go to jails, where there are lots of people with predictable life spans. Hmm. I guess researchers could also target the homeless and other powerless minority groups as well, huh.   

       And [angel]. If they could make amendments in the first place, I don't see why they couldn't make them now. But allowing sadistic wardens to torture people with sporks would be against Article 5 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights - but why let little things like international agreements or human rights get in the way of good policy, right?
sdm, Oct 29 2001

       Personally, I think that anyone who believes in the death penalty should be put to death.
stupop, Oct 29 2001

       I was thinking that this was going to be available to people either on death row or were lifers, not the general public prison population. Maybe there could be different degrees of volunteering, the people that have a hope of getting out could go for some lesser disese like cycle-cell or male pattern baldness while the lifers and death row inmates could go for the hard core stuff like AIDS/HIV or anthrax. Also, if it's VOLUNTEER, meaning to bring it on themselves, then it's not punishment, not in my mind atleast.   

       Also, [AA], you forgot custard, or was that what the spork was intended for?
barnzenen, Oct 29 2001

       [sdm]: I understand the idea. My point is that no (ethical) doctor or research organization would authorize human studies if there were any possibility of the volunteer being reduced to "a lifeless carbon-based goo".   

       If there were some national crisis, a plague of some sort, and people were dying by the thousands with no cure in sight, then this idea might make more sense.
phoenix, Oct 29 2001

       Gee [UB], I'm surprised that nobody's jumped down your throat about that one yet.   

       [PeterSealy] and [jutta], the answer is ‘yes - in a shared sort of way.’ My girlfriend once worked at a lab where they did cruel things to guinea pigs. They would inject them with nasties, shave 'em, and then put them in a box full of hungry mosquitos. Scientists, as we know, are still interested in how mosquitos can carry deadly viruses and the like, but not get infected.   

       So if one of those mosquitos escapes, bites you, and you die from Ross River Fever, you were partly killed by a virus, a guinea pig, a mad scientist, and a mosquito.
sdm, Oct 30 2001

       [PS]: Hey, I try my best.
sdm, Oct 30 2001

       Even dropped from a tall building, a guinea pig wouldn't be travelling fast enough to kill you. You'd have to get a whole bunch of them, tie them up in a tight ball, and chuck that over the edge. And even then, you'd probably only suffocate or choke on all the fur. <staggers around blindly with a three-foot-wide globe of rodents over his head>
pottedstu, Oct 30 2001

       I'm sure if Caligula managed to kill people with flower petals, an equally inventive madman could come up with ways to kill with guinea pigs (... crushed under weight of a thousand guinea pigs... nibbled to death by rabid guinea pigs... shot with bullet made of compacted guinea pig... poisoned guinea pig casserole... clubbed to death with frozen guinea pig... stabbed with frozen guinea pig tail (do they have tails?)...)
Guy Fox, Oct 30 2001

       [sdm] nobody jumped down [UB]'s throat, cause noone can deny his(her)it's statements without looking like an idiot.   

       The problem with making a profit (medically or monetarily) off of death row prisoners is that more and more things become capital offenses. So now when a person is on trial, there is a profit motive to find you guilty and maximize the punishment. Then you end up with the US drug war supporting our military and prison industries, etc.
Rant93, Oct 30 2001

       I'm not opposed to the death penalty in all cases. I would support it only in cases in which there was truly incontrovertible evidence, like videotape or 500 witnesses, or the like. And then it should be swift. I think that holding a death row inmate for 20 years before execution is just idiotic.
While medical testing would be a good use of an otherwise burden, who has no chance of offering any other benefit to mankind, the potential for abuse is too high (as others have noted).
Instead, I would like to see the option of EXILE used by the courts. Even a Timothy McVeigh could have found some country that would have welcomed him. This would avoid the nasty ethical problems. Don't want a "nasty" in your society? Fine - get rid of him without killing him by ejecting him from the country. For international relations, we would have to alert other countries. Perhaps set up a web site where the exiles-to-be can list their profiles, and wait for a country to invite them. They would stay in a special prison until exported.
For medical testing, I think it would be OK for the more risky experiments to be open for public participation. Suicidal people, or people who really don't have much hope for themselves could participate in high risk / high reward studies for financial compensation. If full disclosure is followed, there really shouldn't be any problem (assuming that you believe in the idea that adults should be able to make informed decisions that could result in harm to themselves) (some people obviously don't agree with that idea).
quarterbaker, Oct 30 2001

       Hey! There's nothing wrong with a spork when it's properly used. Ease off, people.   

       Interesting idea. The problem I see is that the point of a trial and subsequent punishment is to see that justice is served. If justice is determined to require the death of the convicted, and the convicted is instead allowed to live, then doesn't that mean that justice wasn't done and the system failed?   

       quarterbaker: The problem with exile is that the criminal could cause havoc elsewhere or sneak back into the country and blow up more buildings.
PotatoStew, Oct 30 2001

       I agree,I believe prisoners have too many rights,,,for example,I need to be on medication but I simply can't afford it,,,but if I was in prison they would give it to me
Yamzz, Oct 30 2001

       I completly agree with this bill. I personally think that they should get rid of the death penalty and be given to the field of medical testing. They have already been found to be guilty and put on death row. Why give them the choice. They have taken away the choices of the people that they have hurt. If their going to die why not make them help humanity in its race with illnesses and diseases.
nroberts2, Oct 08 2002

       The results would be skewed by the nature of the test sample. Put some Shampoo in a rabid psychos eyes and ask him "How does that feel?" get the response "I can't feel a thing, no pain! no pain! Aaargh! Mum!". What's the point in that, it's just more shouting.
weedy, Nov 12 2002

       'Justice' is a concept, which lives in the hearts and minds of men. Concepts can change -- in this case, perhaps concepts MUST change. I'm not sure that any group is any more authorized to take a life than an individual is -- but we have grown the concept, and associated it with 'Justice'. Let medical research be done by those with the courage of their convictions and, perhaps, an overdeveloped death wish. But don't give the 'Justice' meter-outers a further justification for their murderous ways.
loulou, Nov 12 2002

       Personally, I think that too many people are sucking too much oxygen from breathing the thin air on top of their own proverbial soap box. That's why this idea wouldn't work. A good idea, it is, too. Damn, why didn't I think of that?   

       All in all, if, excuse the generalization here, everyone would just accept that murderers, rapists, etc. are scumbags, then there'd be no problems.
spikedshinizzle, Nov 30 2002

       One simple observation that has escaped the views of nearly ALL rights activists on this... The Constitution and its Amendments apply to US citizens. Convicted criminals are NOT US citizens for the duration of their incarceration, so these rights (i.e. "cruel and unusual punishment" protection) do NOT apply to them.
jc112704, Jun 05 2006

       I would think organ donation would be a lot more useful then drug testing. But of course both those options are already available to anyone, aren't they? And certainly an organ donation (or the inmate discovering penicillin) would factor in a parole hearing.   

       So I don't see the idea here.
theircompetitor, Jun 05 2006


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