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From: sbharris@ix.netcom.com(Steven B. Harris)
Newsgroups: sci.med
Subject: Re: Death by hanging
Date: 3 Jun 1999 21:43:13 GMT

In <7j6j95$n20$1@nnrp1.deja.com> Marco de Innocentis
<mdi11@hotmail.com> writes:

>I have recently read the autobiography of Albert Pierrepoint,
>Britain's most famous hangman, in which he claims that hanging
>(the way it was practiced in Britain) resulted in painless,
>instantaneous death. He said that the victims died instantly
>because of a broken neck. Is this true? To me it sounds a bit
>unlikely: there are many people who have broken their necks
>and are still alive.
>
>Marco


   No, the only thing that happens when you break your neck is that you
don't kick and dance.  It adds the pain of a broken neck to the first
few seconds of the experience.

   By all acounts death by hanging is only unpleasant during the time
you want to breathe but can't, and you begin to lose consciousness due
to carotid artery constriction (following which the semi-conscious
events, by accounts of survivors, are quite pleasant, due to endorphins
released as the brain dies of ischemia-- the tremenous sense of
euphoria, calm, the white light, and so on).  That's 10 or 15 seconds
if the noose is done correctly.  The best way be hanged is probably
after taking a deep breath (so you don't need to breathe for the next
15 seconds) and having a noose which is well oiled and constricts well.
The neck-breaking is quite optional.  Obviously, there are various ways
it can be bungled.  But before 1850 when "the long drop" was pioneered
by Britain's hangmen, there are numberous accounts of people hanged by
the old method, who didn't struggle at all.  Major John Andre, for
instance.

    Whether your neck breaks or not, the time it takes the heart to
stop can be a few minutes to almost 20.  Breaking the neck sucessfully
seems to shorten this time a bit, for reasons I don't fully understand,
but not by a great deal, and not infallably.  And the tradeoffs, as
remarked, aren't worth it.


From: sbharris@ix.netcom.com(Steven B. Harris)
Newsgroups: sci.med
Subject: Re: Death by hanging
Date: 5 Jun 1999 00:34:11 GMT

In <040619991029357180%k-mckenna@nwu.edu> kevin <k-mckenna@nwu.edu>
writes:

>As someone who has decapitated a large number of rats, cutting the
>spinal cord does indeed cause one to kick and dance. The spinal cord is
>under a strong inhibitory control from supraspinal sites. When that
>inhibition is suddenly relased, there is a strong activation of spinal
>systems which leads to rhythmic motor activity, including coordinated
>limb movements (the chicken with its head cut off running around is
>true), and often erection and ejaculation (a favorite part of the
>amusement for the crowd).


  Sorry, but you ought to understand that what applies in lower animals
does not apply to higher ones.  A headless chicken may run, but a
headless rat never will.  A frog will be able to reach up with one hind
leg and dexterously remove a small piece of paper with acid on it from
its skin, no matter where it is placed.   A cat with a transected cord
will be able to support a stand with quit minimal assistance and even
take a few reflexive steps.  None of this applies to people.

  People with broken necks (of which plenty are seen in accidents) do
NOT kick and dance.  In a hanging, it's quite possible for the
spectators tell whose neck has been broken by who DOES jackknife their
legs (borne out on autropsy).  As for your statement about erections,
there is lots of historical testimony suggesting that, but for that
matter, it's been reported in suicides by hanging without broken necks
as well.  And not just "accidental" autoerotic suicides.


>This is probably true for the slow hanging where someone is hoisted up
>by the neck. Death comes by suffocation and anoxia.

   Loss of consciousness comes from carotid constriction, as stated.
That is what makes autoerotic hanging so common-- the hangee cannot
judge how close he is to unconsciouss, in the same way a swimmer under
water voluntarily holding his breath can.


>The modern method of hanging (when done right) invariably breaks the
>neck and severs the spinal cord, leading to an inability to breathe.

   Sure, but who cares if you have an inability to breathe.  The rope
around your neck takes care of that very well.


> It would also cause blood pressure to drop to very low levels. This
>could lead to rapid unconsciousness.

   When you have no flow thought your carotid and basilar arteries, or
the venous return system from your head, due to neck constriction, you
will have rapid unconsciouness.  It's not as though this hasn't been
verified by many years of neck cuff occlusion experiments with
primates, and even humans (before these became unethical, as it was
realized that it does microcirculation brain damage, which can be seen
on autopsy in strangulation deaths).  You get 10 to 15 seconds.  Your
blood pressures has nothing to do with it if the ligature is a good
one.

> But it's probably true that the brain is still alive for a few
>minutes and victims could be conscious

   You are not conscious without blood pressure in your brain (by the
normal definition), any more than you are conscious when asleep.
However, some interior "dreams" my come.  Aye, there's the rub.

>part of that. All in all, I imagine that these last moments are quite
>distressing and pretty painful.


   You can imagine all you like.  First hand accounts of survivors
contradict you.

From: sbharris@ix.netcom.com(Steven B. Harris)
Newsgroups: sci.med
Subject: Re: Death by hanging
Date: 5 Jun 1999 00:41:32 GMT

In <928458926.985.91@news.remarQ.com> "Andrew Loewy" <aloewy@fuse.net>
writes:

>I dunno, Steve...it isnt obvious to me at least that you can choke off
>both carotids. if the weight of the body is borne by the angles of the
>mandible or there abouts.

  There's where the bungling comes in, of course.

>On the other hand a C1-2 fracture subluxation might just knock off the
>pyramidal tracts..including of course, the fibers on their way to the
>respiratory muscles.


   A hangman's fracture (C1-C2) surely does this.  "C3,4,5 keep the
diaphram alive" (one of those med school jingles).  Not that it matter
when you have a rope around your neck, unless (as noted) the placement
and constriction mechanism is completely bungled.


From: sbharris@ix.netcom.com(Steven B. Harris)
Newsgroups: sci.med
Subject: Re: Death by hanging
Date: 5 Jun 1999 00:44:20 GMT

In <waawa-0406990949310001@reggae-14-204.nv.iinet.net.au>
waawa@iinet.net.au (Lara Hopkins) writes:
>
>Steven B. Harris wrote:
>
>>    By all acounts death by hanging is only unpleasant during the time
>> you want to breathe but can't, and you begin to lose consciousness due
>> to carotid artery constriction (following which the semi-conscious
>> events, by accounts of survivors, are quite pleasant, due to endorphins
>> released as the brain dies of ischemia-- the tremenous sense of
>> euphoria, calm, the white light, and so on). That's 10 or 15 seconds if
>> the noose is done correctly.
>
>Mmmmmm.....From personal experience in judo a good strangle (right on the
>carotids) will have you unconscious in 4 seconds. I never managed the
>euphoria, though.
>
>Lara


    Maybe you need to wait longer (no, I'm not seriously suggesting
that).  But yes, it's very MUCH faster than how long it takes you lose
consciouness in drowning or other kinds of occlusive suffocation.  It's
on par with the rapidity of "suffocation" by depressurization to very
low pressures (as in space or at very high altitude), or inhalation of
inert gas.  And very similar to the amount of time you get after
decapitation, which produces much the same effect on brain flow.



 



































































































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