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Studies on Tasers Are Flawed, Cardiologist Tells Inquiry

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  • Studies on Tasers Are Flawed, Cardiologist Tells Inquiry

    Published on Saturday, May 10, 2008 by The Globe and Mail Studies on Tasers Are Flawed, Cardiologist Tells Inquiry

    By Anna Mehler Paperny

    Tasers pose potentially fatal health risks that studies proving their safety don’t take into account, a U.S. doctor told the B.C. taser inquiry yesterday.

    San Francisco cardiologist and electrophysiologist Zian Tseng became interested in the use and effects of tasers after a taser-related death in San Francisco in January, 2005. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Dr. Tseng suggested tasers could induce cardiac arrhythmia.

    “Shortly thereafter I was contacted by [Taser International, Inc.] directly to reconsider my statements to the media,” he said. “They even offered to … give me grant money for research.”

    Much of the scientific justification for the safety of tasers is based on formulae that don’t examine their use in the “real world,” Dr. Tseng said.

    “What’s not allowed in these theoretical calculations are worst-case scenarios,” he said. “Tolerability in healthy volunteers under optimal conditions does not mean safety.”

    Many of the most commonly cited studies that show the devices are safe were financed by Taser International, Dr. Tseng said. Several of the authors of a 2005 study are Taser employees.

    Many of these studies use simulated stun guns rather than tasers themselves, and a study on humans monitored only the subjects’ heart rate before and after the shock - not during it, which is when other studies have shown that heart rates were most dramatically disrupted.

    The ability of tasers to disrupt a person’s heart rate fatally increases if the weapon’s barbs are embedded close to the heart or if the subject is affected by high adrenalin, heart disease, drug use or high blood acidity, Dr. Tseng said.

    Several people have died after taser-related incidents in Canada since the devices were introduced in 1999, but no autopsy has found them responsible. Dr. Tseng said a fatal arrhythmia caused by a taser wouldn’t show up in an autopsy.

    “If somebody dies and they find no cause of death, it’s almost certainly an arrhythmic death,” he said, adding that tasers can affect a person’s heartbeat long after the event.

    Dr. Tseng said tasers may be able to play a role in law enforcement, but the way they’re used should be re-examined. He recommended police avoid tasering subjects near the chest area and carry “dummy-proof” automatic external defibrillators with them to ensure they can aid anyone who goes into cardiac fibrillation.

    B.C. sheriff services Superintendent Paul Corrado and senior use-of-force instructor Greg Ducharme presented the B.C. sheriffs’ policy on taser use. They’ve been using tasers to assist in prisoner management since 2001.

    Sheriffs don’t routinely carry tasers and have to be trained beforehand, Supt. Corrado said, but they aren’t told of any safety risks.

    The presentations were part of a “study commission” headed by former Appeal Court judge Thomas Braidwood looking into taser use in the province. It’s the first part of a provincial taser inquiry; the second part will focus on the death of Robert Dziekanski after he was tasered in Vancouver International Airport in October, 2007.

    © 2008 The Globe and Mail
    Damn these electric sex pants!

    26+31+34+42+44+46+64+67+82+06 = 10

    Bring back the death penalty for corporations!

  • #2
    “They even offered to … give me grant money for research.”
    This researcher might end up dead if he doesn't play nice with the Taser folks.
    Be passionate about what you believe in, or why bother.


    • #3
      Just go back to regular guns and shoot'em in the leg. Works on old cop shows.


      • #4
        Published on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 by The Vancouver Sun Police Are ‘Brainwashed’ by Taser Maker; Psychologist Blames Instructions

        by Neal Hall

        A police psychologist blasted Taser International at the public inquiry probing the controversial use of Tasers, claiming Tuesday that Canadian police have been “brainwashed” by the manufacturer to justify “ridiculously inappropriate” use of the electronic weapon.

        Mike Webster accused the company that makes Tasers of instructing police in Canada that when they encounter a person suffering from a “mythical” condition that Taser calls “excited delirium,” police have few options other than jolting the person with the controversial electrical weapon, which delivers a five-second shock that incapacitates a person.

        “When you think the only tool you have is a hammer, then the whole world begins looking like a nail,” Webster told the inquiry in Vancouver.

        Excited delirium is not a recognized medical diagnosis, he said, but is a “dubious disorder” used by Taser International in its training of police in Canada and the U.S.

        The term is also used by the Institute for the Prevention of In-custody Deaths, which is headed by John Peters, a business associate of Taser International of Arizona.

        He pointed out Peters is one of Taser’s “star witnesses” in court when the company defends itself against lawsuits alleging a person was killed by a Taser.

        “It may be that police and medical examiners are using the term [excited delirium] as a convenient excuse for what could be excessive use of force or inappropriate control techniques during an arrest,” Webster said.

        “My own opinion on this is that Canadian law enforcement, and its American brothers and sisters, have been brainwashed by companies like Taser International and the Institute for the Prevention of In-custody Deaths,” he added.

        “These organizations have created a virtual world replete with avatars that wander about with the potential to manifest a horrific condition characterized by profuse sweating, superhuman strength and a penchant for smashing glass that appeals to well-meaning but psychologically unsophisticated police personnel,” Webster said.

        The chair of Taser, Tom Smith, told the inquiry Monday that Tasers save lives and reduce injuries to police and suspects.

        Webster, however, said he has been shocked and embarrassed by recent “ridiculously inappropriate applications of the Taser” in low-risk situations involving people who are mentally imbalanced, likely suffering from “plain old delirium.”

        He specifically mentioned the case of Frank Lasser, an 82-year-old Kamloops man who was delirious in his hospital bed after heart bypass surgery last week when he produced a pocket knife and an RCMP officer gave him several jolts with a Taser.

        He also cited Robert Dziekanski, the Polish immigrant who died last Oct. 14 at Vancouver International Airport after wandering around the airport for nine hours, unable to find his waiting mother, who finally left the airport.

        Dziekanski, exhausted and disoriented, was exhibiting bizarre behavior as RCMP officers arrived and, seconds later, shot him more than once with a Taser. He died at the scene.

        An amateur video of the incident caused international public outrage and led B.C.’s attorney-general to order the current public inquiry before commissioner Thomas Braidwood, a retired judge.

        “It is neither humane nor logical to inflict crippling pain upon someone who has lost his mental balance,” Webster told Braidwood.

        Police need to create a non-threatening environment to defuse crisis situations by using calm communications skills and neutral body language, he said.

        He suggested people who are agitated are in a state of hyper-arousal, which disrupts a person’s ability to process information, including police commands, and causes unpredictable behaviour.

        Asked by commission lawyer Art Vertlieb what his motivation was in making a presentation, Webster said he wasn’t anti-police. “I’ve worked with police for over 30 years,” said the police psychologist, who teaches crisis management skills to Vancouver police and at the Canadian Police College.

        Earlier in the day, Dr. Lu Shaohua, a psychiatrist at Vancouver General Hospital, told the inquiry he has seen about 1,000 people suffering from delirium and most are confused, agitated, sometimes aggressive and paranoid.

        Lu said precipitating factors can include prolonged sleep deprivation, exhaustion caused by a long-haul flight and dehydration.

        © The Vancouver Sun 2008
        Damn these electric sex pants!

        26+31+34+42+44+46+64+67+82+06 = 10

        Bring back the death penalty for corporations!