As Foundation for ‘Excited Delirium’ Diagnosis Cracks, Fallout Spreads


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.

‘This is really about saving lives,’ said Joanna Naples-Mitchell, an attorney who worked on an influential Physicians for Human Rights review of excited delirium.”

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  1. A racially charged case involving professional misconduct in 2020 may have brought the reality of “Excited Delirium” to the public’s awareness, but it has been my understanding that medications have been documented to induce Excited Delirium before 2009. Psychiatric harm is no respecter of any race. I think it is opportunistic and unethical to portray Excited Delirium as merely a racial construct. People of all races need protection from forced medication that cause Excited Delirium. How does this misappropriation of a medical fact impact the work to expose the injustice and harm happening in locked wards and hidden from the public? It seems to have the effect of historical revisionism as if Excited Delirium never happened in the psychiatric ward. Banning the use of the term Excited Delirium is a Big Win for Big Pharma whether intended or not. The prevailing ignorance of the history of psychiatric treatment and psychopharmacology will -in combination with the politicization of the term and the possible passage of a law to ban the use of the term “Excited Delirium” – add to our current dystopian and Orwellian chaos, making it harder to protect or seek justice for poor souls trapped in psychiatric wards. This story also features how professional governing bodies can be swayed by intense political pressure. THIS makes for quintessential gaslighting of the victims of psychiatric drug misuse and abuse.
    Our loved one developed Excited Delirium under verified and aggressive use of forced antipsychotic. My husband observed the Excited Delirium and reported it, acting on advice in the medical literature that the antipsychotic should be withdrawn. He pleaded in vain for the medication to be withdrawn, but instead staff repeatedly gave it to her. He had read that Excited Delirium precedes the onset of Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome(NMS). That’s exactly what happened and the NMS ALMOST killed our loved one. The medical literature warned that Excited Delirium was a marker of imminent onset of NMS.
    In closing, did I miss something? Did I misinterpret any of the story line?

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    • I don’t have the references at hand, personal safety and some other things of my online access.

      But as far as I remeber from my readings, excited delirium was a concept, a construct peddled by the sellers and manufacturers of non-lethal weapons such as tasers.

      After, apparently, they found out that running electrical current through some human beings to incapacite them without killing them, actually did killed some of them, contrary to the “non-lethal” propaganda.

      But, as an explanation, not as a reason, when the fear, anxiety and anger are mixed with an electrical current, it generated, among other outcomes a fatal hearth arrhytmia. When facing the police, in a “tense” situation, the hormones in the blood, and the high heart rate can be, as far as at least I speculate fatal when mixed with an electrical current of such intensitity as a taser can provide.

      Fear/anxiety hormones actually predispose the heart to a fatal arrhytmia…

      And by economic incentives, those companies, acutally did a campaing, not unlike Big Pharma, to promote that those folks died because they were on drugs, stimulants, cocaine, LSD and the like.

      They, as far as I understood and remember, even payed non-pathologists, to come up with the narrative that somehow they died after “tassing” them, because they had an up to then, unrecognized disease that was responsible for their demise after “tassing”, and therefore, it was not the “tasser” that killed them.

      And that, somewhat obvioulsy now, took a different path from avoiding liability for taser manufacturing companies, because the police could use THAT explanation to “justify” killing a “suspect” by clear asfixiation. He/she had excited delirium, is not “we” chocked her/him, he/she did have that!. He/she had a real disease!, experts say so!.

      It became a go to answer to justify all sorts of demises at the hand of people that without training, without supervision and accountability killed other humans because not only they didn’t knew better or didn’t cared, but because an “explanation”, an excuse, a justification was available to let them off the hook. Even accepted by courts then.

      And, apparently, peddled in courts by “experts”, not unlike current psychaitric practice. That, apparently, were at the begining payed by non-lethal weapong manufacturing companies.

      And saddly, also by some lawyers who had “clients” to defend. As far as I remember from my readings.

      So, I haven’t read Big Pharma had to do with it, it was non-lethal manufacturers and “defense” lawyers that actually payed, as Big Pharma did in other cases, to promote the “construct”, now seen and partially admited as invalid, to defend their economic intererst, their liabilities and their “clients”, current and future.

      Not unlike Big Pharma and psychaitry.

      Just, “excited deliruim” didn’t last as long: it was easier to see there was no pathological evidence for it, and clearer to see for the “community” that it lead to abuse. There are many cases of that, the most recent one I know: Elijah McClain.

      Admiting he died because of ketamine administation when he was a vulneralbe, frail, young folk, with a promising future ahead of him. Just, to me, some constructs take a life of its own, and can be used in situations beyond what even corrupt intentions would have allowed.

      Now, taser manufacturers and future criminal defendants won’t have that defence, because it had no bases and was abused, despite being fake and corrupt from the begining. Ironic, regretable and reproachable.

      And yes, psychiatric medications make the heart more vulnerable to fatal arrhytmias too…

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  2. It’s ok for us to speak from our real-life experience, but to say that our experience is the only one and therefore the definitive proof of whatever as a displacement of the experience of others is not good for epistemic justice or for science. The hijacking of language does not advance freedom or health.

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  3. So, I see a scrambling for strategies to win a case. So far it sounds like one faction wanted to win, at any cost, a badly needed court precedent. I will read more of this story with the following question: Who came up with this idea of hijacking the term “Excited Delirium” with the intention to discredit it, strike it down, and ban it from use in litigation? AND, the reasoning behind this decision seems fishy; that “Excited Delirium” had not been precisely and consistently defined and applied in medical practice. I would hope for useful analogies here. EG: How often does the practice of medicine come to a screeching halt because we do not know everything about an emergency medical condition? Since when does the medical profession refuse to validate a need because it features mysterious elements? We are witnessing a “doubling down” an inuring of denial, of gaslighting. Dr. Peter Breggin was the first one to tell some of us of the virtual impossibility of justice for psychiatric malpractice. Psychiatric survivors are apparently getting too uppity for the Powers That Be. Something needed to be done. Smash! Down comes the lid on pip squeak activists. No more use of the term Excited Delirium! Keep the psychiatric staff ignorant so they don’t realize what is happening to the patient. If they don’t document the extreme akathisia and altered states of consciousness induced by the toxic antipsychotics ,which occurs before the development of Neuroleptic Malignancy, then it’s easier to hide what happens Brilliant!
    Dr. Healy, has referred to a less familiar way of establishing scientific knowledge, according to my understanding. It seems this case involves a deceitful argument that suppresses better understanding of how new medical knowledge is generated. This insertion of the legal system looks like a calcifying of justice AND medicine. This too is a curious and slippery thing that needs to be dissected and articulated. Could we get Dr. Healy to chime in here?

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