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The price of life

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 01 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:938
  1. Brendan D Kelly, consultant psychiatrist and senior lecturer in psychiatry (,
  2. Sharon R Foley, research registrar (
  1. 1Department of Adult Psychiatry, University College Dublin, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2DETECT Service, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin, Ireland

    On 31 January 2006 Jaime Elizalde Junior, a 34 year old Hispanic man, was executed by lethal injection in Texas. Elizalde, a welder, had been convicted of killing two men in Houston in the mid-1990s. He spent eight years on death row before being given an injection of thiopental sodium (to sedate him), pancuronium bromide (to collapse his lungs and diaphragm), and potassium chloride (to stop his heart beating). The injection cost $86.08 (£42; €60).

    In 2005 at least 2148 people were executed and another 5186 were sentenced to death in various countries around the world. Four countries were responsible for 94% of executions: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. A variety of methods were used, including hanging, firing squad, beheading, and lethal injection. Those put to death included adults, children, and individuals with intellectual disabilities. The prevalence of psychological distress and mental illness is high among prisoners on death row, who may have to wait for more than 20 years for their death sentence to be carried out.

    In Texas the average time spent on death row is just over 10 …

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