Off-With-Their-Heads Research News

Today’s Icky Research Item award (with echoes from earlier French and British work—see below) goes to this new Dutch study:

Decapitation in Rats: Latency to Unconsciousness and the ‘Wave of Death’“, Clementina M. van. Rijn, Hans Krijnen, Saskia Menting-Hermeling, Anton M. L. Coenen, PLoS ONE 6(1): e16514. (Thanks to investigator and LFHCfS member Holly Brothers for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands, explain:

“The question whether decapitation is a humane method of euthanasia in awake animals is being debated. To gather arguments in this debate, obsolete rats were decapitated while recording the EEG, both of awake rats and of anesthetized rats. Following decapitation a fast and global loss of power of the EEG was observed… Two conclusions were drawn from this experiment. It is likely that consciousness vanishes within seconds after decapitation, implying that decapitation is a quick and not an inhumane method of euthanasia. It seems that the massive wave which can be recorded approximately one minute after decapitation reflects the ultimate border between life and death.”

PREVIOUS RESEARCH: This extends a line of research that includes Antoine Lavoisier’s famous experiment (trying to make lemonade from the lemons, so to speak, of his own beheading) to Harold Hillman’s Ig Nobel Peace Prize-winning study “The Possible Pain Experience Experienced During Execution by Different Methods” (Perception 1993, vol 22, pp. 745-53). Professor Hillman was based at the University of Surrey, UK.