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Friday, November 30, 2007

Tasers safer than Tylenol, engineer tells conference

Friday, November 30, 2007
CBC News

A biomedical engineer with ties to the company that makes Tasers insists that the stun-guns are safer than Tylenol. "You have Tylenol in your home? As far as an electronic controlled device killing you, this stuff is safer than Tylenol," Dr. Mark Kroll said Thursday in Las Vegas.

Kroll, an adjunct professor at California Polytechnic State University who specializes in electrical currents, made his comments while addressing a group of 360 doctors, police officers, lawyers and medical examiners attending a three-day conference on sudden death and in-custody deaths.

Kroll and some of the other medical specialists and law enforcement officials who spoke at the conference stressed that Tasers do no harm, despite the outcry over the death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who died last month after RCMP officers stunned him with a Taser gun at the Vancouver International Airport.

The federal government is examining the case, as are officials from Poland and the B.C. Coroner's office.

Kroll insisted Tasers are safe under all circumstances, and have never been proven to have directly killed anyone. He said they don't output enough electricity to kill, even if people are stunned several times.

There are several myths surrounding the stun-guns that are not true, Kroll said.

"One myth is that these devices can affect the heart. That myth has almost died out but you still see it once in awhile," he said. "Another myth is that they're more dangerous [if the person being hit with a Taser is on] drugs, but one of my favourite myths is that these devices can harm pacemakers."

Kroll said even though he consults with Taser International, the maker of Tasers, and sits on the company's advisory board, he said he does not speak for the company. (HUH??) Others at the sudden death conference, which ends Friday, also had ties to Taser International — three researchers in attendance are consultants with the company, while Taser paid for 10 of its employees to attend.

John Peters, who directs the U.S. Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, said his organization is not influenced by Taser International, despite the ties. "We're not funded by Taser, we teach at the Taser academy a couple of times a year, but that's it," he said. He conceded that his conference did not include the work of researchers who raised safety questions about Tasers. "Their studies were very small, they were isolated," he said. "I thought it wasn't a good fit."

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