12 July 2024
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Understanding Police Custody Deaths and the Controversial Term “Excited Delirium”

Police custody deaths have been a topic of significant concern and scrutiny, particularly when it comes to the use of certain medical terms that have been accused of covering up the true causes of these deaths. One such term is “excited delirium,” which has come under fire for its potential to deflect attention away from the actual circumstances surrounding deaths in police custody. Recent developments in the medical field have shed light on the problematic nature of this term and the need for a more accurate and sensitive approach to addressing the complex issues surrounding police custody deaths.

The Evolution of the Term “Excited Delirium”

The term “excited delirium” was first coined by two doctors in Miami in the 1980s but has since been criticized for lacking a reliable medical basis. Despite this, it has been used in cases involving deaths in police custody, including high-profile incidents like that of George Floyd. Recent actions, such as the banning of the term in certain states in the US and its removal from incident forms in the UK, indicate a shift in attitudes towards its use. The term has been associated with another term, “acute behavioral disturbance,” both of which have been linked to cases of deaths following police restraint.

Criticism and Concerns Surrounding the Use of “Excited Delirium”

Experts in the medical field have raised concerns about the use of terms like “excited delirium” and “acute behavioral disturbance” in attributing causes of death in police custody. These terms have been viewed as a way to deflect attention from the actions of law enforcement and the potential harm caused by certain restraint techniques. Moreover, there is a troubling pattern of these terms being disproportionately applied to Black individuals, raising questions about racial bias in the diagnosis of these conditions. The controversy surrounding these terms has sparked calls for a more precise and unbiased approach to understanding the circumstances of deaths in police custody.

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Moving Towards a More Inclusive and Accurate Approach

In light of the growing criticism and concerns surrounding the use of terms like “excited delirium,” efforts are being made to update medical guidance and terminology related to deaths in police custody. The Faculty of Forensic & Legal Medicine, part of the Royal College of Physicians, has been working on revising its guidance to reflect the latest knowledge and address the shortcomings of outdated terminology. Experts emphasize the importance of finding a more suitable replacement for terms like “excited delirium” that accurately reflect the medical conditions at play without perpetuating harmful stereotypes or biases.

The ongoing debate over the use of terms like “excited delirium” in cases of deaths in police custody highlights the need for a more nuanced and responsible approach to understanding these complex issues. By reevaluating terminology, updating medical guidance, and addressing concerns of racial bias, there is hope for a more inclusive and accurate framework for examining the circumstances surrounding police custody deaths.

Links to additional Resources:

1. BBC News 2. The Guardian 3. The Independent

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Police custody deaths, Excited delirium, Deaths in police custody

Death in custody
A death in custody is a death of a person in the custody of the police, other authorities or in prison. In the 21st century, death in custody remains a controversial subject, with the authorities often being accused of abuse, neglect and cover-ups of the causes of these deaths.
Read more: Death in custody

Excited delirium
Excited delirium (ExDS), also known as agitated delirium (AgDS) or hyperactive delirium syndrome with severe agitation, is a widely rejected diagnosis characterized as a potentially fatal state of extreme agitation and delirium. It has typically been diagnosed postmortem in young adult black males who were physically restrained by law enforcement...
Read more: Excited delirium

Death in custody
A death in custody is a death of a person in the custody of the police, other authorities or in prison. In the 21st century, death in custody remains a controversial subject, with the authorities often being accused of abuse, neglect and cover-ups of the causes of these deaths.
Read more: Death in custody

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