“Cardiac arrest of unknown etiology”

Everyone dies when his heart stops beating, even at Abu Ghraib.

In a chilling scene in Heinlein’s Between Planets, a torturer trying to extract information from the young hero tells him that his uncle has died of a heart attack. He then adds that since everyone dies when his heart stops beating, every death can be described as a heart attack. (Update: this plot summary is inaccurate. Correction here.)

I suppose I should be glad to know that whoever was filling out the death certificates for the Abu Ghraib victims knew his Heinlein, but I’m really not.

I’m really, really, really not. “Cardiac arrest of unknown etiology” on a victim who has been beaten to death? Pah!

(The rest of the story is even more chilling: it asserts that the case involved an innocent family held up back a blackmailer. But that part can’t easily be verified. The part about the condition of the body and what’s written on the death certificate can be verified, and apparently was verified by the Guardian.)

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

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