The time it takes to die by hanging varies according to the method enacted, from mere seconds to many excruciating minutes if done improperly. The most humane method of hanging, the long drop, is the method used most often by the over 50 countries worldwide that still use the option for capital punishment.
According to ABC News, there are three methods in hanging that produce three different lengths in time to cause death: the long drop, the short drop and hanging by being lifted into the air.
In the long drop, the victim has a noose tied around the neck with the knot on one side of the neck. Typically the floor drops out and the person is dropped anywhere from five to nine feet, at which point the rope is suddenly pulled tight. According to Austin Sarat, a professor with Amherst College and expert on judicial killing, the weight of the body coupled with the force of the drop instantly breaks the neck, severs the spinal column and causes an immediate drop in blood pressure. Within seconds, the person is rendered unconscious. With no ability to breathe, brain death typically occurs within five minutes, but can take as long as 20 minutes in some cases. Regardless, the person is incapacitated and cannot feel anything or be revived.
Sarat comments that in the short drop, the same procedure is followed as in the long drop, but the victim only falls a few inches or a couple of feet. Brutally painful strangulation is what kills the person, in which unconsciousness as a result of arterial swelling sets in after a few minutes. Total brain death still occurs minutes after that point.
In a hanging in which the victim is pulled off the ground and into the air without being dropped, strangulation is also what ends the life after several minutes. According to Live Science, if the noose does not tighten completely, death can take up to 30 horrific minutes, but will eventually occur once the brain does not receive enough oxygen to maintain normal functions.
Improper placement of the knot, too much length on the rope and other factors also contribute to possible accidental decapitation, which results in instant death.