TThroughout the early phases of the Derek Chauvin murder trial, defense attorney Eric Nelson has made a passing reference to the term “excited delusion” while trying to build a case for his client.
Nelson referenced the phrase during opening arguments, has asked several witnesses about the term, and may well explore it when the defense presents its case.
But “excited delusion” is a controversial and controversial expression that is often used in fatal cases of police violence. While the term is recognized by certain medical and expert bodies, many others do not, and it does not exist. universally accepted definition of what it constitutes. Others they have discussed the phrase carries racial prejudice and is often used to justify the lethal use of force by the police, disproportionately against black men.
Generally speaking, the term has been used to describe people who become agitated or distressed after using drugs or during a mental health episode. In some cases, people described as experiencing “excited delirium” are perceived to exhibit higher pain thresholds and unusual levels of strength.
The term is not recognized by the World Health Organization, the American Psychiatric Association, or the American Medical Association.
In a statement clarifying its position on the term last year, the American Psychiatric Association saying: “The concept of ‘excited delusion’ … has been invoked in several cases to explain or justify injury or death to persons in police custody, and the term excited delusion is disproportionately applied to black men in police custody” .
In their reasoning for rejecting the phrase, the association added: “The term ‘excited delusion’ (ExD) is too nonspecific to describe and convey information about a person in a meaningful way. ‘Excited delirium’ should not be used until a clear set of diagnostic criteria has been validated. “
However, the term has been recognized by the National Association of Medical Examiners.
Despite this lack of consensus and accepted evidence, police departments across the country, including in Minneapolis, have trained their officers to identify “excited delirium” as a potentially dangerous medical condition.
In body camera video that was shown to the jury during Derek Chauvin’s murder trial, one of the officers involved in the arrest can be heard saying that he was “concerned about excited delusion or whatever.” However, Chauvin continues to restrain George Floyd with a knee-to-neck restraint that has been described as a direct violation of police department policy.
The phrase has been used in a number of highly controversial officer-related African American deaths and has often been used to justify a decision not to criminally charge the police.
In 2015, after the death in custody of unarmed black woman Natasha McKenna, who was repeatedly beaten by detention officers in Fairfax County, Virginia, a prosecutor appeared to refer to the term when she refused to charge any of the six. officers involved. The medical examiner’s report had specifically listed the term as a cause of death.
Speaking to The Guardian as part of an extensive investigation into the fatal police force, McKenna’s family’s attorney said the decision was based on “junk science.”
There are no national statistics on the number of times the term has been used in official autopsies. But a 2015 Guardian investigation into deaths in custody where officers deployed a Taser, the “non-lethal” electric weapon used by many police departments across the country, found that it was used in at least five of the 49 deaths in custody. Taser that year. .
During the prosecution test on Monday, Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, the doctor who attempted to resuscitate George Floyd at the hospital and called his death, said he had considered the term as a contributing factor to Floyd’s death, but finally rejected it.
“I have seen many cases of mental health or drug use crises that lead to severe agitation,” he said. “That is almost always reported by paramedics, so the absence of that information was revealing.
The term is also not mentioned in the medical examiner’s report. on Floyd’s death.
According to the Brookings Institute, the phrase was first coined in 1985 by a forensic pathologist named Charles Wetli, to explain a series of deaths in cocaine users, many that occurred in police custody.
But the most extensive examination of cases involving “excited delirium” was published in 2020, which found that “excited delirium” was most frequently cited during forms of “aggressive restraint” by the police.
Specifically, the research concluded that “there is no evidence” that excited delirium can cause death “in the absence of moderation.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism