How Dangerous Are Tasers?
Are tasers really a less harmful use of force? Not according to a report in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), which suggests that they can have a deadly effect on cardiac health.
Tasers are currently in use by more than 16,000 police forces in 107 countries and now have been used to shock people more than 1.35 million times. The weapon uses compressed nitrogen to fire a pair of barbed probes into the skin of the target individual and is capable of delivering 50,000 volts, causing intense pain and muscle contraction.
While their purpose is to stop a threatening person without using deadly force, tasers have caused eye injuries, seizures, collapsed lung (pneumothorax), tonic-clonic seizures, seizures in people with epilepsy, skin burns, and muscle, joint, and tendon injuries. To date, the biggest safety concern, however, has been head injuries when the person falls without being able to catch himself.
But there's evidence, according to the BMJ report, that the shock from a taser could cause long-lasting arrhythmias in humans. This was what happened in March 2008 in North Carolina when 17-year-old Darryl Turner refused to leave his place of work and the police tasered him for 37 seconds, causing a fatal case of ventricular fibrillation.
Taser lost a lawsuit in the case, as well as the appeal, with the judge noting that Taser did not make the dangers of the device sufficiently clear – especially shocks to the chest area.
The BMJ report said more research needs to be done on how tasers might do long-term damage to a person's heart.