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Arch Kriminol. 1999 Jan-Feb;203(1-2):1-9.

[Fatal incidences during arrest of highly agitated persons].

[Article in German]

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  • 1Institute für Rechtsmedizin, Universitäten Heidelberg, Tübingen.


We report on four cases of sudden circulatory arrest during the physical restraint of extremely excited and repugnant men by the police. Three persons died, and one became apallic. The excited states resulted from acute schizophrenic disorder in one case, from intoxications (ethanol and drugs including cocaine respectively) in two others, and from encephalitis in the fourth case. In only one case one of the police officers was condemned for involuntary mansloughter, responsability was excluded in the remainder. Similar lethal events in "excited delirium" are given in the American literature, the main etiologic factors being acute psychosis and cocaine intoxication. Most of these events occurred, differing from ours, under "hogtying" which is a technique of physical restraint in a prone position with the wrists and ankles bound behind the back. These events are thought to be cardiac in origin and to result from oxygen-consuming motor hyperactivity, excessive catecholamine release, and impaired breathing. Police officers are recommended to restrict all measures of restraint to a mininum in extremely excited persons, and to avoid any compression of the trunk or neck. A continuous monitoring for vital signs is postulated in order to recognize a medical incident as quick as possible.

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