How does death come from hanging?

Written by stephany elsworth
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How does death come from hanging?
Prisoners in Washington and Delaware can choose hanging as an execution method. (noose image by Katrina Miller from

Hanging is both the oldest and most widely used method of execution in the world. Death from hanging occurs in several different ways, depending upon the type of hanging method.


The victim of a short-drop hanging is dropped several inches, and his struggling tightens the noose. Suspension hanging is a similar method; the victim is lifted into the air and then dropped. A victim is dropped between 4 and 6 feet in a standard drop hanging. The distance in a long-drop hanging is calculated based upon weight and height.


Death by short-drop or suspension hangings is caused by strangulation; the noose constricts the air passage and cuts off the airflow. Standard drop hanging damages the muscles and ligaments in the neck before strangulation occurs. The long drop is the most humane, according to Capital Punishment It is designed to break the neck on impact.

Time Frame

Victims usually struggle from one to three minutes during a short-drop hanging before going limp. The time until death by standard drop hanging varies, depending upon the victim. The victim quickly loses consciousness during a long-drop hanging. Brain death occurs in approximately six minutes, and whole-body death is usually complete within 10 to 15 minutes.

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