Definitions

Dismemberment

Dismemberment

[dis-mem-ber]

Dismemberment is the act of cutting, tearing, pulling, wrenching or otherwise removing, the limbs of a living thing. It may be practiced upon human beings as a form of capital punishment, as a result of a traumatic accident, or in connection with murder, suicide, or cannibalism. As opposed to surgical amputation of the limbs, dismemberment is often fatal to all but the simplest of creatures.

Dismemberment was carried out in the Medieval era by tying a person's limbs to a chain or other constraint, then attaching the restraint to two separate movable entities (eg. a vehicle) and moving them in opposite directions. Also referred to as "disruption" or being "drawn and quartered", it could be brought about by chaining four horses to the condemned's arms and legs, thus making them pull him apart, as was the case with the execution of Robert-François Damiens and François Ravaillac in 1610. Queen Brunhilda of Austrasia, executed in 613 is generally regarded to have suffered the same death, though she was tied to the tail of a single horse.

There are many instances of dismemberment in modern cases, including those of murder. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is infamous for his dismemberment and consumption of his victims. In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt severed her husband's penis (this was not a murder, as her husband was not killed). In 1998, three men from Texas dismembered James Byrd, Jr. by chaining him to their pickup truck and dragging him for miles. In 2005, a student from the University of Texas at Austin dismembered a young woman by severing her hands and head (which also counts as a decapitation) .

A famous device used for dismemberment is the rack, upon which the condemned is chained down by the wrists and ankles, on a large bed-like frame, and a wheel is subsequently turned, winding in the chains and causing an immense stretching.

Dismemberment was a form of capital punishment for convicts of high treason in the Korean kingdom of Joseon.

Dismemberment is not known to be used by any modern governments as a form of torture or capital punishment.

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