Monday, October 08, 2007
Are Tasers safe?
"Don't tase me bro!"
After University of Florida student Andrew Meyer was subdued last month at a Senator John Kerry event, (Watch Video) CNN and other media outlets played the video over and over again. And we were all fascinated by CNN's own correspondent/anchor Rick Sanchez getting Tasered a few years back. (Watch Video) In a classic report, Sanchez stands ready in front of police officers, gets Tasered, and his knees buckle. Just a few seconds later he continues with his report. For good or bad, I can't help but stare when someone gets Tasered. More importantly, I can't help but wonder how safe could a Taser be?
Law enforcement uses Tasers to immobilize people. Taser devices use compressed nitrogen to shoot two probes at a speed of over 160 feet per second at a range of 15 to 35 feet. An electrical signal sends a current through the probes rendering the immediate loss of a person's neuromuscular control for the duration of the impulse. "Typically a Taser can pack 50,000 volts, when it actually makes contact with a person 1,200 to 1,300 volts pulse through the body," says study author Dr. William Bozeman. A shock of just a half a second causes intense pain and muscle contractions. The manufacturer says that recovery is instantaneous, and long-lasting side effects are rare. This new study contends that most injuries are related to the fall to the ground, not the actual electrical current of the Taser itself.
A new study out of Wake Forest University School of Medicine finds that Tasers are relatively safe. Tactical physicians (doctors who work with SWAT teams) looked at 1,000 cases of law enforcement use of Tasers in six locations around the country. They found that 99.7 percent of the cases had mild injuries, such as scrapes or bruises, or no injuries at all. In the study, only three people suffered severe enough injuries to be sent to the hospital. Of those, two had injuries from falling immediately after being Tasered. The third person was admitted to the hospital two days after being Tasered, but researchers says it is unclear whether the hospitalization had anything to do with being Tasered. It's important to note that the new study followed patients only if they had to be hospitalized or needed follow-up care from initial injuries. There was no long term follow-up with all of the patients. The study was funded by the National Institute of Justice, but researchers say that the study was independently designed and conducted.
Amnesty International points out more than 245 people in the United States have died, many from cardiac arrest after being shocked with Tasers. Amnesty and other groups call for more investigation into how dangerous these devices may be. The Wake Forest researchers acknowledge that there have been roughly 270 people who have died in police custody after being Tasered, but they say that there is no clear evidence that the deaths can be attributed to Tasering or other causes.
Do you think tasers are safe? Have you or anyone you know ever been Tasered?
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