“60 Minutes” last night explored the concept of “excited delirium” and the use of ketamine, focusing on the death of Elijah McClain of Aurora (but others, too).

The excited delirium syndrome has become a term that some find problematic, especially when police use ketamine to subdue someone who has been arrested. 

And unless you have lived in a cave for the more than a year, the death of Elijah McClain has shocked the country in terms of what happened to this 23-year-old who was walking home from a convenience store carrying a bag of iced tea. Someone called the police to say there was someone being suspicious. The police asked McClain to stop, and he said he wanted to walk home, and the police tried to restrain him, and asked an EMT to use ketamine to subdue him. Elijah McClain died in a hospital several days later. 

(The image is credited to Teresa Crawford of The Associated Press.) 

60 Minutes occasionally tiptoes into Colorado to explore issues here. Just about a year ago, this venerable news magazine addressed the state’s Red Flag Law, known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or ERPO’s. 

McClain is the focal point in the story last night by considering the concept of excited delirium and the drug ketamine. The young man’s death still resonates, with protests and numerous investigations. 

The headline on the text of the story notes this: “Extreme delirium: the controversial syndrome that can be used to protect the police from misconduct charges.”

Toward the beginning in the 60 Minutes report, John Dickerson began the story: 

“We had never heard of excited delirium but discovered it is widely used by police and paramedics to describe a life-threatening syndrome among suspects exhibiting wild behavior and extreme strength, and that it is being used to justify injecting them with a powerful chemical restraint, ketamine. But in the medical world, we found deep skepticism over whether excited delirium is even a real condition and concern about an overreliance on ketamine and the use of excited delirium as a shield to protect police from charges of misconduct.”

And the first paragraph in a story last month in Westword  by Alan Prendergast reads like this: “A year ago, outgoing 17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young released the results of his investigation into the death of Elijah McClain following a tortuous, brutal encounter with Aurora police officers and paramedics a on August 25, 2019. He determined that there was no culpability among Aurora’s first responders.”

At some point, there will be a reckoning, and it cannot come soon enough.  

The links below lead to 60 Minutes and the Westword story, along with links to other news outlets in Colorado and elsewhere. 






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