back to article Irregular heart rhythm? Try a Taser

Connecticut doctors have provided circumstantial evidence that Tasers do affect the heart - backing critics' claims that the use of the "less-than-deadly" incapacitator may in fact prove resolutely deadly. In the case of the belligerent 28-year-old patient admitted to Hartford Hospital, however, the end result of a light …

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Weasel words

"no evidence the gun directly caused the deaths"

Sure, because it stopped the heart and THAT caused the death...

The 120% weasel version would be "we found no evidence..." 'cos that doesn't say you looked for it...

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Black Helicopters

causality

"no evidence the gun directly caused the deaths"

Of course the gun doesn't cause death, it's the 50KV that does it, assisted by the person pulling the trigger.

Directly: no; indirectly: yes

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Death by Taser

290 deaths since 2001? Can we compare that to the number of deaths caused by being shot? Or beaten with a big stick? What percentage is that of total people tasered?

Not that i'm likely to be in a situation where i'm running from the cops, but if I was, I would pick Taser over 'Thrashed with a stick' or shot ANY day.

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Silver badge

Time to get Advertising Standards involved

Taser advertise the device a "Non-Lethal"

This should be challenged by the American equivalent of the ASA, as its use clearly can be lethal in particular circumstances.

It's definitely less lethal than being shot with a bullet, but that doesn't equate with non-lethal.

This is the core of the problem - many enforcement officers of all kinds see the Taser as being essentially harmless. Therefore, they use it in any 'slightly difficult' situation, including ones where taking the time to talk or even just standing by for a while would be better courses of action.

The Taser should only be used where the alternative would be to shoot the suspect with a 'real' gun, (or possibly beating the suspect with a baton, although that's less clear-cut)

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Re: Death by Taser

Well, the taser is supposed to be a non-lethal weapon. Do you think that if we had 290 deaths since 2001 for a new anti-histamine drug we would

a) stop its sale

b) continue to sell it

?

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Coat

Someone's gotta say it ...

... shocking the lengths crims will go to to avoid capture these days. I wonder if he's put his career on Ice.

/ Mines the one with the ESD label on the sleeve

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Silver badge
Coat

Next on ER...

Nurse: Patient is in v.fib...

Doctor: Charge 50,000 volts. CLEAR!

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Shit happens.....

Now it must be assumed that all the individuals that were tasered, were arrested, whether or not they subsequently died. What percentage of people tasered during this period did not die?

How many people were arrested without the use of Taser and subsequently died?

How many just keeled over and died when running away?

I'm not saying that Taser had no part in these reported deaths because, like the rest of you, I am not in possession of the full facts.

Believe it or not some humans have physical defects which can go unnoticed until a stressful situation and die as a result. If, due to their own stupidity, they end up at the wrong end of a Taser then it was probably just their time.

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Coat

Non-leathal

So, electric shocks effect heart rhythm? Shocking (!)

Seriously though, cops need something more effective than a whistle these days.

So, if I must be accidentally taken down by a confused policeman, I'd rather Taser than gun or truncheon.

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Atrial fibrillation

No great surprise here - one of the main treatments for atrial fibrillation is an electric shock from a defibrillator. It's a lower setting than we'd use for resuscitation after cardiac arrest, but the effect is probably very similar to being shot by a Taser.

Note that Tony Blair suffers from lone atrial fibrillation, as broadly advertised in the news a year or two back. Perhaps a good Tasering would be a more amusing way to treat it next time...

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Coat

meh, just need some marketing reajustment

Time for a new slogan perhaps ?

"Tasers don't kill people. Cops and security guards kill people", and the always popular "you'll pry my Taser from my cold dead hands"

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Flame

Taser the scum

Why have any sympathy for someone kicking off in a hospital ER?

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Flame

Wow...

It amazes me the lengths people will go to to villify the tazer. Perhaps it is sometimes fatal, perhaps it is overused.

But to all you who hate the tazer....what do you propose we do? go back to shooting them?!

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Coat

just need to tweak the wording...

It would only need a small change from say ooooooh, "harmless" to "mostly harmless" =)

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Tom
Stop

Re: Shit happens.....

"They deserved it" is not a good reason to ignore someones unlawful killing, and a death in police custody should always be investigated.

Tasers may be less damaging than a billy club to the head, and a sharp blow to the chest of any healthy person can cause the heart to stop. This is why you don't hit people on the head or chest with a billy club, and this is why a taser to any part of the body should be carefully considered.

I don't object to tasers absolutely, but their use should be carefully examined, and if they keep using them on people in hospitals then we should consider banning their use.

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maby

hospitals should stop buying thiuse expencive difubraters and get tazers insteded

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Alert

Non-lethal

"low-voltage charge meant to cause pain"

So what's the high-voltage one supposed to do..?

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Silver badge

50000V means very little

If a taser really put 50000V across people, they would die. A taser might have an open circuit voltage of 50000V, but that voltage almost certainly falls under load. What really matters is the current. The threshold of perception is about 100uA. 5mA is often safe. Prolonged exposure to 18mA across the chest results in suffocation in adult males. It is believed that a lower current will kill women and children, but as far as I know, tests of this conjecture have not been published. 60mA at 60Hz can cause ventricular fibrillation in adult males (this has been tested on children: 30mA is sufficient for them). Most adults will experience ventricular fibrillation with a current of 100mA applied between the hands. People are about ten times less sensitive to DC currents and frequencies above 1000Hz.

At a wild guess, tasers output short bursts of DC current. I hope they are current limited rather than set to a specific voltage.

A blanket statement like "Tasers are safe" just causes suspicion, and a bit of nervousness that policemen will not be told what type of situations make tasers a bad risk. I think one policeman with a taser is a cheaper way to immobilise a violent suspect than half a dozen unarmed policemen. How much are you prepared to pay for the safety of suspects and policemen?

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@Simon Neill

"But to all you who hate the tazer....what do you propose we do? go back to shooting them?!"

Agreed, the tazer is an excellent alternative to shooting someone as it is provably a less lethal alternative.

The problem is police are using it in less dangerous situations where in the past they would not have considered using a gun. And the tazer is most definately NOT provably non-lethal.

I suspect part of the problem is also the public's perception. If you were drunk and angry, might you not give a cop pointing a taser at you the same respect you'd give a cop pointing a gun?

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Anonymous Coward

Rodney King

Now there's a guy who could tell you a thing or two about what's best - one cop with a taser or half a dozen about to open a can of whupass!

A.C. because I seem to have come over all american.

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Anonymous Coward

Escalation

Tasers are good.

If they're properly used.

They're good if they stop someone from killing someone, notably the police officer from killing the perp. They're a step in the escalation from presence to communication to restraint to harm to slaying.

The problem is that they're sold as a panacea, and are used inappropriately. Some of those inappropriate usages have led to death. They're a cheap and substandard alternative for training police in non-violent conflict resolution and restraint techniques. But you gets what you pays for, and no one (not even the police service) wants to pay for (either in financial or emotional terms) a properly trained and respected police service.

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Anonymous Coward

Anyone into electronics

I bet they are lethal if the victim isn't wearing any shoes, the 'ground' will be far more attractive to the current than the return path of the tazer - simple

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Anonymous Coward

American equivalent of the ASA

We don't have one :-( We have to envy yours...

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Anonymous Coward

Design flaw identified

Taser believes that the short 100us pulses of current from the various tasers are incapable of affecting the heart. Their mistake begins with the X26 taser introduced in 2003. The waveform from this model has a monophasic (DC) pulse at the pulse repetition frequency of 19 Hz, and this DC component results in the primary frequency becoming 19 Hz. Thus, logically, the 19 Hz waveform is continuous 100% duty cycle for the entire length of each 5-second cycle. Taser and their in-house experts appear to have missed this step because they continue to claim that the short pulses are safe. They don't realize that the X26 waveform at 19 Hz is logically continuous 100% duty cycle for the entire 5-second cycle. Not coincidently, the taser-associated death rate shows a distinct step funtion starting in 2003 (when the X26 taser was introduced).

Excited-Delirium.com

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Pirate

Dont tase me bro!

First of all... don't resist arrest. You get your day in court. If you allow yourself to be tased by authorities, then you are probably a threat and deserve it.

There probably should be some more studies done on the electrical affects done on the body. I suppose if the right conditions exist,ie body conduction/lack of resistance, direction of charge (negative to positive path), the heart being polarized at the same time etc... then it may be possible. Just highly unlikely.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Dont tase me bro!

I'm sure if you believed, rightly or wrongly or inebriatedly at the time, that you were being wrongfully detained, you wouldn't have the presence of mind to think about your day in court. You'd kick up a big ole fuss right there. It's human nature. Not everyone deserves it, and I'm pretty sure not everyone who gets electropronged would cause someone damage if they weren't treated to a dose of the sparky stuff.

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Re: Rodney King

I suspect he would have preferred the LEGAL alternative: no cops punishing him for being persistently black.

And do you think that they would have left it at just one zap? Or do you think they'd empty the batteries and STILL give him a kickin ("he's still moving about!!!": yeah, spasms DO move you about...).

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Re: Simon Neill

How about NOT SHOOTING EITHER.

Police used to be trained to restrain. Orderlies in mental institutes were taught the same thing. No need for teaching now, however. Just ZAP THE BASTARD! Much cheaper to get a mouth-breather who can press a button than spend money training someone, isn't it.

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Jim
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Re: Dont tase me bro!

"First of all... don't resist arrest. You get your day in court. If you allow yourself to be tased by authorities, then you are probably a threat and deserve it."

And I guess you are one of these (rare) people who have absolutly "nothing to hide" too?

...And a strange belief that the court system is 100% reliable.

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Flame

"Atrial fibrillation" or delivering a shock to the political system, deserving cases !

re: by Dominic Tristram

"Note that Tony Blair suffers from lone atrial fibrillation, as broadly advertised in the news a year or two back. Perhaps a good Tasering would be a more amusing way to treat it next time..."

I cannot think of a more deserving case, maybe the all Polititians should be tased every time someone dies from thier political cock-ups, that would make them think a hell of a lot harder about what thier meddling in policies(and everything else) will cause in damage to the state.

If they decide to take us to war, they should all collectivly be tassed for 24 hours, just to sharpen thier minds about what the cost to the country (and themselves) will be. This would probably be the first positive deterent against going to war, that would work,, ever.... in mans history...

(only problem is max mosley would have to be banned from politics, just cos he would probably like the idea of being tied up and tortured)

....hang on, that would also include most Tory's as well, oh well... ;p

Though my personal view is that the Torys should be permantly attached to such devices, as it would be cheaper to society, for example.. a tory makes a reakless comment, (que.. a sudden scream, a thud, and a shakey get out clause about how it should be considered under stringent non partisan review) might get some honesty in politics for a change...

ahhhh we can dream i suppose.....

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

@ Mark

"How about NOT SHOOTING EITHER.

Police used to be trained to restrain. Orderlies in mental institutes were taught the same thing. No need for teaching now, however. Just ZAP THE BASTARD! Much cheaper to get a mouth-breather who can press a button than spend money training someone, isn't it."

Yeah, because drugged-up perps always considerately attack people when there's good visibility, plenty of room to move, and plenty of time to react.

Tell you what, I'll get someone to attack you in a relatively uncluttered well-lit hospital corridor or ward and then (after you get out of your plaster casts) I'll get some meth-crazed bastard to attack you in a dimly-lit cluttered street - then maybe you'll be qualified to have an opinion.

Unlike you, some of us actually venture outdoors at night time and are aware that lighting is not optimal, "housekeeping" is non-existent, street lights create confusing extremes of glare and profound shadow, the terrain and buildings provide cover and shadow, numerous unpredictable hazards abound and there are plenty of opportunities to be "blind-sided".

But anyway, you can sit in your little safe well-lit bubble and dream but kindly refrain from sharing your dreams with those of us in the real world.

And re: Tasering: It should only be used in situations where a clear and present physical danger is evident. And I'd rather be accidentally hit by a badly-aimed Taser than a badly-aimed firearm.

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Anonymous Coward

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Roger de Laborde: "I would be guessing that [death rate] somewhat less than 1%"

Taser likes to wash out the denominator of the safety statistics by including every possible form of deployment. If you estimate the death rate associated with only 'full-on' X26 taserings across the chest, you get figures of 4-6% range.

For example, in the Canadian province of British Columbia in the year 2007, there were about 500 taser incidents, perhaps 25 of those were full-on X26 taserings across the chest, and there were a couple of taser-associated deaths.

You can look upon this as a "low" death rate, but it is infinitely larger than "zero" (as so strenuously claimed by Taser, cardiac-wise). No reasonable critic is claiming that tasers are perfectly dangerous every time, but Taser is quite unreasonably claiming that tasers are perfectly safe (cardiac-wide).

And if the death rate (cardiac-wide) is not zero, then all the training is factually defective because the police have been trained that tasers are perfectly safe (other than the victim falling down). So the police are happily tasering everyone, not just the rare violent offender.

If you're interested, visit Excited-Delirium.com for a blog with over 300 related posts exposing all the bad arguments and propaganda from Taser. You'll see that back-and-forth comment arguments are useless because of the subtle detail that is critical to understanding the overall picture. If you can't allow many hours to get up to speed on the topic, then you're probably repeating stale pro-taser arguments that have already been shredded.

www.Excited-Delirium.com

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@ Jon Tocker

Sorry mate, but i think your talking bollocks.

"Yeah, because drugged-up perps always considerately attack people when there's good visibility, plenty of room to move, and plenty of time to react.

Tell you what, I'll get someone to attack you in a relatively uncluttered well-lit hospital corridor or ward and then (after you get out of your plaster casts) I'll get some meth-crazed bastard to attack you in a dimly-lit cluttered street - then maybe you'll be qualified to have an opinion."

If a cop is attacked without warning and by an obviously crim, they are going to reach for there gun (rightly so), not the taser. Use of a Taser is for situations where the police have a good idea of what is happening, they know the offender is carrying a gun, and they know where the offender is.

In these cases, without a taser, the police would spend a great deal of time pointing a gun at the perp and talking them down. This way no one gets hurt, the officers are at minimal risk and everyone walks away in one piece. With tasers, the police make the decision to use a taser rather then trying to talk the perp down. Yes this is quicker, but it also has the affect of endangering lives of the perp, the cops and any other bystanders.

It's never a good idea to walk into a situation with a "lets get this over and done with quickly" mindset and that's really what the taser gives.

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Rodney King COmment

how about if half dozen of them administered Taser-ing AND beatings?

Thinking, as has oft been mentioned in these forums, does not hurt.

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Tim

There are no "non-lethal" weapons...

A feather is a lethal weapon if properly applied.

I've seen a man embed a playing card in a water melon from 20 yards.

The best way to deal with a fleeing criminal is to tag him with an rfid and target him with a missile from a satellite. Ok, its not very humane, but the entertainment value is awesome!

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D
Black Helicopters

It may look cleaner and more humane

but there's not really much difference between tasering someone and giving them a bit of a kicking, apart from the fact that the good kicking would be a lot safer than a massive electrical shock. However, for some reason we stopped the police from being able to beat the crap out of someone or using other forms of excruciating pain when arresting people. Why was that?

The other point that nobody seems to have considered is that we really don't know what the long term effects of electrical shocks can be with humans. It's never really been seen as ethical to subject people to repeated electric shocks for the purposes of research.

We can say with certainty that unlike many other trauma's electric shocks are a completely new phenomena and one that there will have been no need to build evolutionary safeguards. People and animals generally don't survive lightning strikes. There's nothing to suggest that our bodies have mechanisms to protect us against electrical trauma.

Every day in hospitals across the country electro convulsive therapy is still being used, sometimes on an outpatient basis, to treat depression. There's still much controversy about the mechanism by which it works, but a general consensus amongst psychiatrists is that the disruption of the electrical activity of the brain can for some people have a profound impact on their mental state, often a positive one. Studies have shown that repeated treatments can leave scar tissue in the brain, similarly to the kind of trauma that boxers suffer with repeated concussions. So they do generally try to limit the number of treatments an individual can have.

There's interesting research looking at the strong link between heart disease and depression, and speculating that the link may be in the change in the electrical activity of the heart that impacts on the electrical fields in the brain.

There's no telling what series of massive electrical shocks would do to the central nervous system. Not to mention the heart, the digestive tract, the sexual organs etc. But I guess if the police continue to taser people with such enthusiasm, we'll start to find out. I hope it's not anything too nasty.

Until then, I would like to be the first to welcome our new Taser yielding, jack boot wearing overlords.

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Re:Anybody into Electronics.

I am,

Since there's no return path between the feet of the target and the gun, the choice of footware is utterly irrelevant. The return path that the tazer uses comes from it firing two wires into the target, and a wire attached to a barb in the flesh is a very good return path indeed.

I'm not pretending that tasers are particulalry safe, but they're safer than a firearm, and we've had a number of fatalities from truncheons, battons, asps and CS spray over the years. Tazers are at least restricted to armed suspects, and are safer than the gun/machete/sword/knife/2x4 with nails in it that they're armed with!

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Paris Hilton

@call me scruffy

But tasers aren't being USED instead of firearms, so the comaprison there is invalid.

Or should they have shot him in the hospital?

Bend over back this much for anything else?

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Dead Vulture

@John Tocker

He was drugged up, yes.

By whom?

The FUCKING HOSPITAL!!!!

Jesus fricking christ on a maypole, you must be a cop to want so hard to defend the safer (for you) course of zaping any little pissant that doesn't respect your authoritah.

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