As a follow-up to my post on Taser issues last week, Tasers Can Kill And Deployment Policies Are Inconsistent Or Non-Existent, I’ve come across more information on one way that Tasers can kill. In my prior post, I reported that 32 year old Brian Cardall died last week after he was tased by a Hurricane, Utah police officer. According to his obituary, Brian died of apparent cardiac arrest shortly after the officer made the decision to deploy his Taser in an effort to subdue him for what the officer now says was erratic behavior.
As this video demonstrates, Tasers are effective in subduing even those who view themselves to be some of the toughest people around:
But the "non-lethal" weapons manufactured by Taser International have killed hundreds of people over the years:
It appears that at least some of those sudden deaths were caused by cardiac arrest. One Canadian heart specialist, Dr. Michael Janusz, told an inquiry panel in British Columbia that based on his review of the literature concerning Taser use, "almost all physicians would conclude that Taser can induce ventricular fibrillation" which can lead to cardiac arrest because if not interrupted quickly, the extremely rapid rhythms in the lower chambers of the heart prevent it from pumping blood.
Dr. Charles Kerr spoke to the same inquiry panel and essentially indicated that he agreed with Dr. Janusz by stating that based on his reading of animal studies and the agitated state of most people who are targeted with Tasers, a Taser jolt can cause ventricular fibrillation. One other researcher, electrical engineer James Ruggieri, has concluded that Taser induced cardiac arrests may not always be immediate and that injuries to those being tased may go undetected.
At the end of the day, however, some researchers, including Dr. Janusz and Dr. Kerr, who think Tasers can kill also think that in certain circumstances, they may be a safer choice than say, a gun. While that may be true, many law enforcement people equipped with Tasers seem to focus much more on their effectiveness than the potential risks their use entails. It seems that there should be more balance in the decision making process when these situations arise.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.