January 14, 2005
LOUIS UCHITELLE, The New York Times
The news release issued by Taser quoted directly from the study but did not list the four authors, two of whom are Taser executives ... While the company's news release made no mention of the study's four authors, Taser posted the full four-page study on its Web site. The study noted that two of the four authors were Robert A. Stratbucker and Max Nerheim, who were identified as Taser employees. Mr. Stratbucker is the medical director and Mr. Nerheim is the vice president for engineering, the company said.
Asked whether the company had played any role in the conduct of the study, a Taser spokesman, Steve Tuttle, replied in an e-mail message: "Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology (PACE) is the foremost peer-reviewed journal in the field of pacing and implantable cardioversion defibrillation. The published results of the cardiac safety study of Taser technology speaks for itself."
The release also said that the study was published in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology. But the study is scheduled to appear instead in a supplement to the journal, not the journal itself.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, January 14, 2005
January 14, 2005
Monday, January 10, 2005
January 10, 2005
Dr. Zian Tseng, a cardiologist at the University of California, believes Tasers are potentially dangerous because a jolt of electricity, at just the right moment in the heartbeat cycle, can trigger ventricular fibrillation.
Friday, January 07, 2005
January 7, 2005
The Business Journal of Phoenix
"The company said it is now putting information together for federal regulators regarding company statements about the safety of its products, and a $1.5 million order received from Davidson's Inc., a Prescott firearms dealer, to determine if it was made in late 2004 in order to meet fourth quarter revenue guidance. Taser says it is cooperating fully with the SEC and is confident the issue will end up in their favor. "We are confident our statements are supported by the safety studies of our products," said Rick Smith, Taser's chief executive.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
January 5, 2005
Sabin Russell, San Francisco Chronicle
UCSF doctor says jolt can interrupt pumping of blood
When 50,000 volts of electricity from a Taser surge across the body, it can instantly incapacitate a person -- more safely than a blow from a police baton or a blast of pepper spray, its manufacturer contends.
But cardiologists are concerned that, in certain cases, the device might also interrupt the rhythm of the human heart, throwing it into a potentially fatal chaotic state known as ventricular fibrillation.
Rather than pump blood in sequence through its four chambers, a heart in ventricular fibrillation writhes uncontrollably, wiggling like a bag of worms. It is a common cause of sudden death.
Dr. Zian Tseng, a cardiologist at UCSF, believes Tasers are potentially dangerous because a jolt of electricity, at just the right moment in the heartbeat cycle, can trigger ventricular fibrillation.
He ought to know. He uses a precisely timed jolt to throw the hearts of his patients into ventricular fibrillation on a regular basis.
Tseng installs implantable electric defibrillators into the chests of heart patients who are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest. The devices are miniature versions of the electric paddles used to jolt a stalled heart back into its proper rhythm. Vice President Dick Cheney is the most prominent American with such a device implanted in his chest.
Before Tseng can wheel a patient out of the operating room, he must test the new defibrillator by stopping the heart, and watching to see if the life- saving implant does its job.
"There are vulnerable periods in the cardiac cycle, when shocks can cause dangerous arrhythmias,'' Tseng said.
Known as a T-wave on the heart monitor, the brief pause in pumping takes up about 3 percent of a heartbeat's cycle. Tseng times his jolt of electricity for that moment, to stop a heart, so the defibrillator can automatically start it again.
People using Tasers, he said, risk jolting a person at precisely the wrong instant. "I think they are dangerous,'' he said. "If you are shocking someone repeatedly, it becomes a bit like Russian roulette. At some point, you may hit that vulnerable period."
Cardiologists also know that the window in which a jolt of electricity can halt a heart expands significantly when a patient is treated with certain drugs, or when the body is flooded with the fear hormone, adrenaline. Patients with underlying heart problems are also more vulnerable to the condition.
Executives at Taser International are aware of the heart's vulnerability to ventricular fibrillation, but they insist their device is safe. The electrical current used in an operating room to stop a heart is 30 times higher than that produced by a Taser, said Mark Kroll, an electrical engineer and board member of the Scottsdale, Ariz., firm. Medically induced fibrillation involves applying a current directly to the inside of the heart, he added, while a Taser's current is applied to the clothing and skin.
"The current delivered by a Taser is too weak to induce ventricular fibrillation,'' he said.
Kroll acknowledged that adrenaline does increase vulnerability to ventricular fibrillation, and that many subjects facing police arrest are pumped up with the hormone. But he said there is no evidence it lowers the threshold to a point that would make Tasers dangerous.
"If anything, a Taser is reducing deaths," Kroll said. "Many subjects are in a terminal stage of a drug overdose. The quicker police can get them under control, the quicker they can get medical help."
UCSF cardiologist Tseng said that, as a precaution, police should carry automatic electronic defibrillators in their cars, so they might revive someone whose heart has been stopped.
And while Kroll said Tasers are not responsible for stopping hearts, he agreed with Tseng on that point: "I think cops should carry defibrillators anyway.''
January 5, 2005
Some cardiologists worry that Taser stun guns, which police use to subdue suspects with a jolt of electricity, can interrupt the heart's rhythm and can possibly cause death.
Taser International, the device's manufacturer, says stun guns, which typically emit 50,000 volts of electricity, can instantly incapacitate a person more safely than police batons or pepper spray.
But cardiologists are concerned that, at just the right moment in the heartbeat cycle, Tasers can trigger a potentially deadly state known as ventricular fibrillation during which the heart writhes uncontrollably.
"I think they are dangerous," said Dr. Zian Tseng, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. "If you are shocking someone repeatedly, it becomes a bit like Russian roulette. At some point, you may hit that vulnerable period."
Cardiologists say people who have underlying heart problems, or who are using certain drugs, are more vulnerable to the condition.
Executives at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Taser International say they're aware of the heart's vulnerability to ventricular fibrillation, but insist their devices are safe.
"The current delivered by a Taser is too weak to induce ventricular fibrillation," said Mark Kroll, a Taser board member.
On Sunday, Gregory Saulsbury, 30, of Pacifica suffered a heart attack and died after police shocked him with a Taser while trying to subdue him at his family's home. His family has retained Oakland civil rights attorney, John Burris, to represent them.
Pacifica police have released little information about events leading up to Saulsbury's death. The police department and San Mateo County District Attorney's office are conducting a joint investigation into the incident.