At last, what we have said about tasers is proving true. Common sense and experience should tell us that people can die from being electrocuted, whether from a downed power line or an electrical outlet. But when it comes to a 50,000-volt taser being responsible for hundreds of electrocutions resulting in death, we are in denial.
Now a new study shows that “the electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death.” (“Tasers Pose Risks to Heart, a Study Warns”, NY Times, April 30, 2012)
“This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement.”
The debate over whether tasers are lethal is over. Taser can and do kill.
This conclusion flies in the face of TASER International’s long standing claim that the weapon was non-lethal. This important line of demarcation determines how the weapon is regulated, how officers in the field are orientated and trained in its use, its public acceptance, and its sales.
But, of course, the company will not kowtow to the study’s findings, instead rather choosing to allege a profit motive on the doctor doing the study. But the preponderance of evidence gained from medical records, police reports, and autopsy reports show an undeniable correlation, between electrical shocks from tasers and cardiac arrests, resulting in some deaths.
Although the conclusion is clear, the medical community is undecided as to how to proceed. Is the risk of sudden death with Taser low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement? That, Dr. Lee claims, should be the principal issue in the debate. Wherein, Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine in cardiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, added, “I suspect the incidence of these fatal events is going to be low and can be minimized by the precautions.”
Missing in the perspective is the victim’s point of view from those who have been tased and survive, who call the experience “torture”. That issue raises the bar of the debate. No longer is a debate about overuse and abuse of tasers by police officers, poor training, and discretion in the field. It is no longer a debate about whether 50,000 volts of electricity can kill. But short of death, how much does the taser victim suffer?
Are tasers really torture?
The subject of torture has been debated throughout the ages. There is no precise definition except as an act of practice that is reprehensible to public conscious. Like the Supreme Court justice who said of pornography, “he knows it when he sees it”. Torture can only be known by those who have suffered it. And, by all firsthand accounts, from police officers tased in training to the man on the street, pinned on the ground, and shocked into submission, TASER IS TORTURE.