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J Forensic Sci. 2010 Sep;55(5):1278-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01434.x.

Agonal sequences in eight filmed hangings: analysis of respiratory and movement responses to asphyxia by hanging.

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Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


It has been proposed that filmed hangings may hold the key to a better understanding of human asphyxia, and The Working Group on Human Asphyxia was formed to systematically review and compare these video recordings. This study analyzed eight filmed hangings. Considering time 0 to represent the onset of the final hanging, rapid loss of consciousness was observed (at 8-18 sec), closely followed by convulsions (at 10-19 sec). A complex pattern of decerebrate rigidity and decorticate rigidity then followed. Between 1 min 38 sec and 2 min 15 sec, muscle tone seemed to be lost, the body becoming progressively flaccid. From then on, isolated body movements were observed from time to time, the last one occurring between 1 min 2 sec and 7 min 31 sec. As for the respiratory responses, all cases presented deep rhythmic abdominal respiratory movements (last one between 1 min 2 sec and 2 min 5 sec).

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