Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/367

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THE QUESTION OF PAIN IN HANGING.

while in the second trial a half-minute had barely passed when the noise in the ears and a peculiar sensation in the brain, difficult to describe, warned me to stop the experiment."

In the first experiment Fleischmann was on the very border of unconsciousness, and, as he himself says, did not stop a moment too soon. In the second, when the effects of asphyxia and cerebral congestion were combined, the result was reached much more rapidly.

Devergie states plainly, after considering all the facts, that hanging is a pleasant way of dying. His words are: "In suicide, at the moment of the application of the cord, or a few moments after, a feeling of pleasure manifests itself; then supervenes disordered vision; bluish flames appear before the eyes, and the loss of consciousness soon follows."

All the evidence goes to show that death by hanging is painless, and there is positively no fact or well-founded opinion to the contrary. If this be the case, then, what is the explanation of it? Simply this: That in every form of strangulation the blood-vessels of the neck are compressed, as well as the air-passages. A large part of the blood is returned from the head by the external jugular veins, which are very near the surface, and in which the current can be checked by slight pressure. Most of the blood from the brain itself comes back through the internal jugulars, which lie near, but a little outside of, the carotid arteries. The walls of veins are lax and yielding, so as to be easily compressed, while those of the arteries are firm and elastic, and it requires considerable force to approximate them. Pressure, then, which is sufficient to close the jugular veins only crowds the carotids a little farther inward, and the blood is still poured through them into the brain, whence it cannot escape. When this pumping process is going on at the rate of seventy strokes a minute, it is easy to understand how the engorgement of the vessels of the brain, in a very brief time, reaches a degree which causes insensibility. To explain why this congestion causes unconsciousness would involve a technical discussion which would here be out of place. It must suffice to say that it does; so that, as the cerebral congestion in a hanged person brings on insensibility within a minute, while the physical agony of suffocation does not begin until later, it follows that the victim does not feel any of the pangs of asphyxia. He first becomes insensible, with accompanying pleasurable feelings, from cerebral congestion, and then is choked to death while unconscious.

Drowning and hanging, then, are painless modes of dying, because the asphyxia which causes death is complicated by other circumstances which render the dying man so soon unconscious that the pangs of suffocation are unfelt. And the insensibility which results from hanging is so insidious and painless in its approach, that experiments on the subject are very dangerous for any one to make alone. It is probable that many persons, who are supposed to have committed suicide in this way,