by Douglas Ankney
In October 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed a bill into law that prohibits “excited delirium” from being recognized as a valid diagnosis or cause of death. The law was prompted by the death of Angelo Quinto in 2020 who, while suffering a mental health crisis, lost consciousness and died as two police offers knelt on his neck and back. Quinto’s death certificate lists “excited delirium” as his cause of death.
The controversial medical condition known as excited delirium mysteriously only appears when a person dies in the presence of police officers—usually while the officers are restraining and Tasing the person. The term describes a condition where people suffering a brutal assault at the hands of the police are simultaneously “excited” and “delirious” and are often uttering strange, incomprehensible phrases like “I can’t breathe.” Apparently, the only cure for excited delirium is death by electrocution and/or suffocation induced by police officers.
Obviously, the term is nothing more than pseudo-medical quackery. It was first coined by a pro-law-enforcement forensic pathologist in Miami, Florida, when attempting to explain the in-police-custody deaths of cocaine users. The term became widely used after Axon (formerly known as Taser) pressured ignorant and unsympathetic cops to use the term after police basically used Tasers to electrocute suspects—thereby shielding Axon from litigation even though the dead bodies often still had Taser prongs attached to them. The term has since been disavowed by the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, the National Association of Medical Examiners, and the American College of Medical Toxicology. And in October 2023, the American College of Emergency Physicians disavowed the use of the term as well.
Unfortunately, the California law and the disavowals will most likely change nothing. Biased medical examiners have a big bag of dirty tricks from which to select a cause of death that blames people for their own deaths at the hands of the police. Often, even when deaths are plainly caused by police gunfire, the medical examiners will overemphasize the victim’s toxicology report indicating the presence of drugs or alcohol in his or her system. After all, when police can make it appear that something other than hog-tying, beating, choking, and Tasing the person was responsible for the death, police can continue their abusive and excessive force unimpeded in the name of “public safety.”
Writer’s note: This story is reminiscent of the incident where police broke down the door to the home of a marijuana grower, killed him with gunfire, and proclaimed it was “another drug-related death.”
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