It seems to me we vets have a thing or two to teach the US penal system on the subject of lethal injection. Recent media coverage on this method of execution—and its cruelty—has led me to this conclusion.

Ask most vets how they’d like to die, given the three legal options (death by hanging, electric chair, or lethal injection), and you’d be hard-pressed to find one voting against the needle. That’s because we see first-hand, every day, how peaceful death by injection can be.

If vets ever thought it was painful, or otherwise cruel, to euthanize by injecting a cocktail of drugs, we’d investigate new methods and change our protocols or refuse to euthanize altogether. One doesn’t have to be particularly principled to feel this way; one need only have the basic drive to be humane. Apparently, it’s this element that’s lacking in our penal system.

Humans, sadly, don’t seem to get the same treatment as our pets: Their lethal injection drug protocols are forty years old. Their doctors have little to no experience in the purposeful hastening of death (the Hippocratic oath might have something to do with this). And only limited research has been done to improve the process.

No surprise here. After all, these people are considered less than animals by society, and –if HBO is any reflection of reality—even less so by those charged with their care.

The US penal system needs to take a page out of vet medicine’s book. We continually refine our procedures with respect to euthanasia. Our governing body, the AVMA, passes resolutions on these. Veterinarians tailor both drugs and doses to the individual patients’ needs. New research is published in scientific journals on a regular basis. And, most of all, we respect our patients’ death.

If our society holds that people must die for the crimes they commit then, for God’s sake, let’s do it right. After all, Mohandas Gandhi’s quote should apply to death row inmates as well: The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.