CA bans “excited delirium” as cause of death – used to justify sudden death while in police custody

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CALIFORNIA – Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 360, on Sunday, which bans listing “excited delirium” on a death certificate –  most often used to justify a citizen’s sudden death while in police custody.

California becomes the first state to ban “excited delirium” – a medical diagnosis used to describe a state of extreme agitation, paranoia, hallucinations, and increased strength before sudden death.

Navy Vet dies of “excited delirium”

Assemblymember and bill author Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) says the issue was brought to his attention through tragic circumstances.

“In 2020, Angelo Quinto, a Filipino-American Navy Veteran dealing with a mental health crisis, stopped breathing while two police officers knelt on his back and neck. Mr. Quinto’s official cause of death was determined to be excited delirium,” said Gipson.

Gipson says neither the American Medical Association (AMA) nor the American Psychiatric Association recognizes this term as a legitimate diagnosis.

“In fact, the only place where this term is continuously used is to describe deaths that occur in police custody,” said Gipson.

American Medical Association opposes the diagnosis

In 2021, AMA adopted a policy that opposed “excited delirium” as a medical diagnosis. 

“The new policy addresses reports that show a pattern of using the term “excited delirium” and pharmacological interventions such as ketamine as justification for excessive police force, disproportionately cited in cases where Black men die in law enforcement custody,” said the 2021 AMA news release.

Police may use ketamine – a sedative, to calm citizens with “excited delirium.” The use of a taser and physical restraint may also be used in addition to the sedative. 

AMA says they recognize the risk that sedative/hypnotic and dissociative drugs have in relation to an individual’s age, underlying medical conditions, and potential drug interactions when used outside of a hospital setting by a non-physician. 

RELATED: New bill would ban mandatory evictions for tenants accused of a crime

Solution for handling medical emergencies

The Brookings Institution says medically-trained professionals should be the primary responders and decision-makers in the management of medical emergencies, such as drug intoxication or psychosis. 

“In scenarios where police involvement is unavoidable, de-escalation strategies should be employed – officers currently only have about 8 hours of training in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, compared to about 100 hours of training on firearms and defensive tactics,” says the report.

They go on to say that the use of firearms or violent restraints, such as chokeholds restricting blood flow to the brain, are never appropriate medical interventions. They also recommend transparency in data about police custody deaths.

To read the AB 360 visit https://trackbill.com/bill/california-assembly-bill-360-excited-delirium/2350798/

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