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Monday, October 08, 2007

Tasers safe? New study sparks more debate

October 8, 2007
ABC News

Dr. Corey Slovis, professor and chairman of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University, says other recent research suggests that the weapons may be dangerous for some.

"I think that Tasers in normal subjects are safe," he says, "but I am concerned that emerging evidence may show that they may change the underlying heart rhythm of individuals who do not have a normal conduction system -- such as those using cocaine, those who are dehydrated, agitated, hypoxic or those taking anti-psychotics."

While Slovis says he once concurred with the conclusions presented in the current research regarding Taser safety, he now harbors some concerns, many of which stem from recent research on pigs.

In the research Slovis cites, the heart activity of the pigs was studied as they were being zapped with a Taser. What this study showed was that the heart rates of the animals jumped to more than 130 beats per minute at the time they were shocked -- a finding that leads Slovis to wonder whether the same kind of dangerous, racing rhythm occurs in human hearts as well.

"Tasers save lives, but Tasers are not perfectly safe," he says. "A Taser should not be used unless force is absolutely necessary. I am no longer convinced that Tasers are blameless."

If there is any point on which all agree, it is that Tasers are weapons -- ones that should be used only in appropriate situations. "These are not 100 percent safe," study investigator Dr. William Bozeman says. "These are weapons and must be treated as such."

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