Posted by: Staff | 11.11.2010

Death Penalty in Bioethics


Typical lethal injection chair

Each week in Mr. Mckinney’s bio- ethics class various topics are discussed. This weeks topic is the death penalty, should it be permitted or not. Throughout the week the students express their views on the topic and at the end of the week write a paper stating their view, supported by evidence.
The death penalty is legal in 37 states in the U.S., and there are five different types of execution: lethal injection, electrocution, hanging,lethal gas, and firing squad.

The views that have been expressed are whether or not the death penalty is morally, and constitutionally right. The cost of the death penalty vs. the cost of a life sentence in prison and the idea of retribution.

The death penalty is given to those found guilty of rape, torture, treason, kidnapping, murder, or perjury. One could argue that the death penalty honors human dignity by treating the defendant as a free human being able to control his or her own destiny for good or for bad. It does not, unlike opposite belief, treat him or her as an animal with no moral sense.
Constitutionally, the death penalty execution methods are believed to be the most humane, therefore not violating the Eighth Amendment. Another question that arises when discussing the death penalty is the cost of putting someone to death vs. the cost of a life sentence in prison. The death penalty costs $2 million per case whereas a life sentence is $1 million for 50 years.

There is no question that the cost of the death penalty is significantly higher than that of a life sentence in prison, or life without parole (aka LWOP). There also appears to be no question that, over time, equivalent LWOP cases are much more expensive than death penalty cases.

Yellow states allow the death penalty

There must be accountability for death penalty worthy crimes. People often confuse retribution with revenge, vengeance implies inflicting pain on the offender out of anger because of what he has done. Retribution is the rationally supported theory that the criminal deserves a punishment fitting the gravity of his crime.
Arguing the opposite end one might say that the death penalty is morally unacceptable due solely because the government should never take a human life, no matter what the crime.

Constitutionally, the death penalty is an unusually severe punishment. Unusual in it’s pain and in its enormity. This specific punishment treats humans as objects to be toyed with and discarded. As such it is a penalty that ‘subjects the individual to a fate forbidden by the principle of civilized treatment guaranteed by the [Clause].’ [quoting C.J. Warren from Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958)] Ultimately the death penalty is a cruel and unusual punishment.

The question of the cost of the death penalty vs. life imprisonment is a recurring one. As stated above the cost of the death penalty is $2 million PER case whereas for life imprisonment is only $1 million for 50 years. The cost of the death penalty amounts to a net expense to the state and the taxpayers. In other words, the death penalty is clearly more expensive than a system handling similar cases with a lesser punishment, like life imprisonment.

Many may argue that retribution is just another word for revenge. By killing someone who has killed someone else is simply continuing this cycle of violence which ultimately destroys the avenger as well as the offender. Two wrongs do not make a right.


  1. The map of the United States is perfect and what I am looking for, but not updated, recently on March 9, 2011 Illinois abolished the death penalty. Is there i can get an updated version??? please e-mail me at:

  2. hello

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