In the tenth episode of “The First Opinion Podcast,” I talk with two physicians who specialize in addiction medicine about “excited delirium,” a topic that has come up several times in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer charged with killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes last May. Jennifer Brody, of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and Ayana Jordan, who works at the Connecticut Mental Health Center, wrote the First Opinion entitled “Excited delirium: valid clinical diagnosis or medicalized racism? Organized medicine needs to take a stand” along with their colleague Sarah Wakeman of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Though the term excited delirium was first used in its modern sense in 1985, there’s weak — or no — evidence to support it as a valid diagnosis. In our conversation, Brody and Jordan break down the differences between the real diagnosis of delirium and the spurious one of excited delirium; describe its use by police; and put it in the context of racist systems in medicine. They also describe their push to get the medical community to publicly denounce it.
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