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California has become the first state to ban the use of “excited delirium” as a cause of death, prohibiting the pseudoscientific diagnosis that authorities have frequently cited to justify killings at the hands of law enforcement.

Excited delirium – a term rejected by major medical groups, including the American Medical Association – suggests that people can develop “superhuman strength” due to drug use. Medical examiners and coroners have argued that the condition caused victims of brutal police force to struggle and collapse from cardiac arrest, essentially excusing the role of officers who were holding them down, choking or suffocating them.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Sunday prohibiting the term from being recognized as valid diagnosis or cause of death. The bill comes as a national emergency physicians’ group is also considering disavowing the term.

The legislation was prompted by the 2020 death of Angelo Quinto, who lost consciousness while two Antioch officers knelt on his neck and back, with the death certificate citing “excited delirium syndrome”. Quinto was suffering a mental health crisis in his mother’s home.