According to the results of a recent study, being hit with a Taser stun gun in the chest can lead to cardiac arrest and death. The research by Douglas Zipes, a heart specialist at the Krannert Institute of Cardiology in Indianapolis, Indiana, was based on records he acquired as a plaintiff’s expert witness in a number of lawsuits involving US police use of the controversial stun gun. Zipes examined eight cases between 2006 and 2009 in which “previously clinically healthy males” aged between 16 and 48 lost consciousness during or after tasings, when one or both of the current-carrying darts were lodged “near or over the heart”. Seven of them died. In each case, Zipes analysed how long each shock lasted and cardiac responses measured by paramedics, when available (Circulation, DOI: 10.1161/circulationaha.112.097584). He found that 50,000-volt stuns to the chest can induce irregular heartbeats that lead to cardiac arrest. The study will fuel opposition to the weapon, which Amnesty International says has now been associated with over 500 deaths in the US. The US National Institute of Justice recently posted videos advocating caution in the way police use Tasers and pointing out that they are not meant to be fired at the chest. The weapon’s maker, Taser International of Scottsdale, Arizona, is disputing Zipes’s peer-reviewed findings, saying there are “key facts that contradict the role of the Taser device” in all eight cases.
New Scientist, 8 May 2012 ;http://www.newscientist.com/ ;