Lethal Injection Law and Legal Definition

Lethal injection is the practice of injecting a person with a fatal dose of drugs, typically a barbiturate, paralytic, and potassium solution for the express purpose of causing the immediate death of the subject. The main application for this procedure is capital punishment. However, the term may also be applied in a broad sense to euthanasia and suicide. It kills the person by first putting the person to sleep, then stopping the breathing and heart in that order.

Lethal injection gained popularity in the twentieth century as a form of execution intended to supplant other methods, notably electrocution, hanging, firing squad, gas chamber, and beheading, that were considered to be more painful. It is now the most common form of execution in the United States. Every American execution in 2005 was conducted by lethal injection.

For example, a Tennessee court concluded the following “we conclude that the lethal injection protocol in Tennessee, which includes intravenous injections of sodium Pentothal, pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, (1) does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution or article I, section 16 of the Tennessee Constitution, [*298] (2) does not violate due process provisions under the United States or Tennessee Constitutions, (3) does not deny access to the courts in violation of the United States or Tennessee Constitutions, (4) does not violate the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, (5) does not violate the Nonlivestock Animal Humane Death Act, (6) does not violate provisions governing the practice of medicine and provision of healthcare services, and (7) does not violate the Drug Control Act or Pharmacy Practice Act. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.”[Abdur'Rahman v. Bredesen, 181 S.W.3d 292, 297-298 (Tenn. 2005)]