I'm sure you've all seen that there have been more hangings in Iraq. This time two of Saddam's henchmen received the death sentence, following him to the gallows. Apparently as the two men dropped to their deaths, the presiding officials believed one had escaped, only to discover that he had in fact been decapitated.
Now death cannot have been instantaneous for either man. Back in the time of Dick Turpin, loved ones used to hang on the legs of the convicted, to help speed along their departure. But both deaths were quicker than that. However, breaking your neck or snapping your spine, does not cause instantaneous death. No, these men died of something nearly all humans die of: lack of oxygen to the brain. The only other cause of death is swift physical destruction of the brain (think Andre Delambre in The Fly or being vaporised in a nuclear explosion). So imagine it is you hanging there: with a body either failing or no longer connected to you. Do you experience anything?
Here, then, is what I was able to note immediately after the decapitation: the eyelids and lips of the guillotined man worked in irregularly rhythmic contractions for about five or six seconds. This phenomenon has been remarked by all those finding themselves in the same conditions as myself for observing what happens after the severing of the neck...
I waited for several seconds. The spasmodic movements ceased. [...] It was then that I called in a strong, sharp voice: 'Languille!' I saw the eyelids slowly lift up, without any spasmodic contractions – I insist advisedly on this peculiarity – but with an even movement, quite distinct and normal, such as happens in everyday life, with people awakened or torn from their thoughts.
Next Languille's eyes very definitely fixed themselves on mine and the pupils focused themselves. I was not, then, dealing with the sort of vague dull look without any expression, that can be observed any day in dying people to whom one speaks: I was dealing with undeniably living eyes which were looking at me. After several seconds, the eyelids closed again, slowly and evenly, and the head took on the same appearance as it had had before I called out.
It was at that point that I called out again and, once more, without any spasm, slowly, the eyelids lifted and undeniably living eyes fixed themselves on mine with perhaps even more penetration than the first time. Then there was a further closing of the eyelids, but now less complete. I attempted the effect of a third call; there was no further movement – and the eyes took on the glazed look which they have in the dead.
But being hanged must be a shock and presumably you would quickly pass out. Or succumb to the build up of chemicals in your brain, which cause a near-death, almost-gone, dead experience. More from Wikipedia:
When cerebral circulation is severely compromised by any mechanism, arterial or venous, death occurs over four or more minutes from cerebral hypoxia, although the heart may continue to beat for some period after the brain can no loner be resuscitated. The time of death in such cases is a matter of convention. In judicial hangings, death is pronounced at cardiac arrest, which may occur at times from several minutes up to 15 minutes or longer after hanging. During suspension, once the prisoner has lapsed into unconsciousness, rippling movements of the body and limbs may occur for some time which are usually attributed to nervous and muscular reflexes. In Britain, it was normal to leave the body suspended for an hour to ensure death.
Finally, I've seen it noted that Saddam and his compatriots were visibly shaken before their deaths. This is no surprise. It reminds me of an earlier posting on CJD and the numerous deaths that are predicted in the future. From a BBC article:
He said it was possible people at high risk could have their tonsil tissue tested in a bid to diagnose if they are infected. Professor Collinge added: "Although we do not yet have an effective treatment for any form of CJD, a reliable tonsil test could allow people with vCJD to access experimental treatments early.
I wonder, would you want to know that you were infected with CJD and going to die a nasty death? Would you walk to the gallows shaken and stirred, or would you want to remain blissfully ignorant of your condition? All of us are suffering from that fatal illness called life and some pretend that there is a god and a point to existence. Others understand the truth, that our prognosis is terminal and utterly permanent. But rather than be scared by one of life's inevitabilities, maybe we should use our time better, and live happier, than die with fear and regrets?Go Top