The readers’ forum

‘Excited delirium’ not the whole story


Re the Sept. 29 article Controversial, troubling trend, about “excited delirium”: Death resulting from excited delirium is not a trend. Excited delirium was first recognized in 1849 in an asylum and is known as Bell’s Mania. It is a phenomenon precipitated by a number of conditions and associated with a relatively small percentage of deaths, which can occur whether or not force is used.

Most recently, police use of Tasers has been implicated and is being scrutinized; in the 1980s, it was use of the lateral vascular neck restraint, followed by the hogtie. In later years, some deaths previously thought to have occurred because of “positional asphyxia” may actually be attributable to excited delirium.

Law enforcement is under scrutiny whenever force is utilized; regardless of the method or degree of force required. But we should remember the obvious: Injuries and deaths might occur to alleged perpetrators and officers when force is used, regardless of the level of force.

Deaths might also occur in situations that are stressful or involve extreme physical exertion. The physical exertion associated with fleeing or struggling with police, when predisposing factors are present, could result in sudden death without the use of force. Some people are predisposed to sudden death due to certain factors such as disease, including the cardiac abnormality known as cardiomyopathy; mental illness; and drug and alcohol abuse.

Law-enforcement agencies often use a list of behaviors, symptoms and circumstances as a training tool to alert officers that certain events might pose a risk of sudden death for the person being confronted. Also, police departments’ use-of-force policies govern the method of force approved for use and the circumstances surrounding it.

The allegation by victims’ families and the American Civil Liberties Union that excited delirium is built on shaky medical research as a way to cover for overaggressive police tactics insults our law-enforcement officers who risk their lives to protect ours.

How quickly we forget the dozens of officers who have died in the line-of-duty in South Florida since 1974.

Although unfortunate, the deaths of victims allegedly engaged in criminal activities, perpetrators who fled police or otherwise precipitated police action, and those whose actions posed a risk to others, pale in comparison.

Joyce Voschin, Davie

Read more Letters to the Editor stories from the Miami Herald

  • Ray Allen home was violated

    Young people who are 18 and 19 are not “teens.” They are, at best, young adults, eligible to vote and serve in the military. Teens younger than this have been charged and convicted as adults for murder and other crimes.

  • Riots and rubble

    We need to keep a clear perspective about the world. A black youth is killed by a white cop in Ferguson, Mo. I took note because I grew up in Webster Groves, a hop, skip and jump from Ferguson. Michael Brown allegedly was shot six times in broad daylight with his hands up. This seems excessive. There’s much confusion swirling, and we’ll have to wait until it is sorted out.

  • No fear

    Re Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s Aug. 17 letter, Same-sex marriages would open Pandora’s Box: I do not see a Pandora’s Box. I see sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, cousins, the dearest of friends. I want to give them my love and support for all good things; not limits on aspirations, ambitions and fulfillment, that are rooted in fear. I do not fear a Pandora’s Box. I am Roman Catholic and I was told, “Be not afraid.”

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category