21 December 2010

Detective Instinct

The Mindhacks blog drew our attention to some work they did about scopolamine. Here's the link.

Mindhacks is always worth a read but the thing that struck me was the example they chose of the police in late 1920s Hawaii using scopolamine in order to question a suspect. At the time the procedure was somewhat unusual and was written up in a medical journal. After a child had been kidnapped from school and a ransom had been paid, the child turned up dead. Since the kidnapper was thought to be oriental in appearance the police arrested the familly's Japanese chauffeur. The police tried to torture a confession from him but to no avail; so they decided to inject him with scopolamine.

"Under the influence of the substance the man became co-operative, confessed to the crime and described his evil plan in intricate detail, although he quickly recanted when the effects wore off. Wanting a confession that would stick, the drug interrogation was administered for a second time, only for the police to be embarrassed when real murderer was caught."

As usual there was no attempt to validate the technique.

Of course, this couldn't happen today, could it?

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