After an 11-month inquiry, a Novia Scotia judge probing the death of a paranoid schizophrenic man has rejected the theory that his death was attributable to “excited delirium” questioning whether the controversial condition even has a valid scientific basis. The Provincial Judge, Anne Derrick, concluded that Howard Hyde’s death was the accidental result of his being restrained. “This case should sound a loud alarm that resorting to ‘excited delirium’ for a person’s behavior and/or their death may be entirely misguided,” she wrote. Ultimately, Judge Derrick concluded that Hyde’s death was due to the effects on his body of being restrained in the jail. Although she found that the police used proportionate force, their repeated use of TASER ECDs to control Hyde “worsened the situation.”
Howard Hyde, a 45-year old musician, died a day after he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his wife while off his medication. After his arrest and during the booking process, Mr. Hyde was subjected to repeated discharges from a TASER Electronic Control Device (“ECD”) while struggling with guards at a local jail. A short time later, he collapsed and died. The provincial medical examiner had concluded that Mr. Hyde’s death was due to “excited delirium”, a controversal condition often cited by TASER, Intl., as the cause of TASER associated deaths. Medical experts, however, dispute the legitimacy of the condition. Neither the American Medical Association nor the American Psychiatric Association recognize excited delirium as a legitimate condition. Even Emergency Medicine experts, retained by TASER, Intl., admit that excited delirium deaths rarely occur in the absence of police restraint. Opponents of the condition consider it nothing more than a “responsibility shifting mechanism” in which the death is blamed on the victim’s behavior during police restraint rather than on the conduct of the restraining officers. Echoing this sentiment, a lawyer for the Hyde family note that “[t]his term excited delirium is a controversial one and certainly there has been suggestions that it is a term that is relied upon to justify the use of force.” “We viewed it as just an attempt to justify their [police officers’] actions and, furthermore, really to place the blame for his passing on Mr. Hyde.”
Bravo to Judge Derrick for having the courage to listen to the scientific evidence and reject excited delirium – a dubious condition at best – as the cause of death in this case. We only wish more medical examiners/coroners would do the same.
TASER – Injury – ECD – TASER Lawyer