From KFF Health News: “When Angelo Quinto’s family learned that officials blamed his 2020 death on ‘excited delirium,’ a term they had never heard before, they couldn’t believe it. To them, it was obvious the science behind the diagnosis wasn’t real.
Quinto, 30, had been pinned on the ground for at least 90 seconds by police in California and stopped breathing. He died three days later.
Now his relatives are asking a federal judge to exclude any testimony about ‘excited delirium’ in their wrongful death case against the city of Antioch. Their case may be stronger than ever.
Their push comes at the end of a pivotal year for the long-standing, nationwide effort to discard the use of excited delirium in official proceedings. Over the past 40 years, the discredited, racially biased theory has been used to explain away police culpability for many in-custody deaths. But in October, the American College of Emergency Physicians disavowed a key paper that seemingly gave it scientific legitimacy, and the College of American Pathologists said it should no longer be cited as a cause of death.
That same month, California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the nation’s first law to ban the term ‘excited delirium’ as a diagnosis and cause of death on death certificates, autopsy reports, and police reports. Legislators in other states are expected to consider similar bills next year, and some law enforcement agencies and training organizations have dropped references to excited delirium from their policy manuals and pulled back from training police on the debunked theory.
Despite all that momentum, families, attorneys, policing experts, and doctors say much remains to be done to correct the mistakes of the past, to ensure justice in ongoing trials, and to prevent avoidable deaths in the future. But after years of fighting, they’re heartened to see any movement at all.
. . . Ultimately, the campaign against excited delirium seeks to transform the way police deal with people undergoing mental health crises.
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