Hanging is the oldest but most widely used method of execution in the world today. In 2009 at least 337 hangings were recorded in seven countries, down from 339 men and 4 women in ten countries during 2008. These executions took place in
The processes of judicial hanging.
There are 4 main forms of hanging.
- Short drop hanging where the prisoner drops just a few inches, and their suspended body weight and physical struggling causes the noose to tighten, normally resulting in death by strangulation or carotid or Vagal reflex. Pole hanging is a variation on this method.
- Suspension hanging where the executee is lifted into the air using a crane or other mechanism. Death is caused in the same way as with short drop hanging.
- Standard drop hanging where the prisoner drops a predetermined amount, typically 4-6 feet, which may or may not break their neck. This was the normal method adopted in
in the later 19th and early 20th centuries. America
- Finally, measured or long drop hanging as practised in
from 1874, where the distance the person falls when the trapdoors open is calculated according to their weight, height and physique and is designed to break the neck. This method was adopted in British Colonies and by some other countries who wished to make executions more humane. Britain
Each of these processes are examined in detail below.
Total body death results usually within less than 30 minutes as the cells becomes starved of oxygen. This was one of the reasons why prisoners were left hanging for an hour in Britain. It is noteworthy that irrespective of the method of hanging it seems to take about the same time for total body death to occur.
Does the prisoner feel pain where the drop is sufficient to break their neck?
Obviously no one can be sure but it is generally held that if the person does feel pain, it is only during the instant that their neck is broken which can be measured in milliseconds (see below).
Those who witnessed 20th century British hangings never described any obvious suffering on the part of the prisoner and the two post-mortem reports that are available do not seem to indicate anything but a quick death. There were no signs of conscious suffering in the independently witnessed hangings of Westley Allan Dodd in Washington and Billy Bailey in Delaware. Although death was not instantaneous (it never is) unconsciousness was. These were the last two hanging executions in the USA.
The process of judicial hanging (Capital Punishment UK)