Jonathan Kay on the best corporate media department in the world (even if they did get my name wrong)
May 7, 2008
Jonathan Kay, National Post
The people who man the media shop at Taser International Inc. are the aces of the corporate flak world. You write anything — anything — even vaguely skeptical (let alone downright negative, in which case they rattle their legal sabers) about stun guns, and they, er, zap you with an inbox full of electro-spin.
Case in point: my Tuesday column about this week's Canadian Medical Association Journal study on the health risks of being stun gunned, which earned me (or, should I say, "Jay") the note below. True, the guy not only got my name wrong, but also the name of my article (which he seems to have confused with Marni's blog post on the same subject). Still, it's the thought that counts.
I read with interest your column entitled “Watch where you put that Taser” which appeared last Friday. As such, I wanted to make certain you had a copy of the official statement issued by TASER International related to the discussion article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The statement is attached below.
Related to the CMAJ article and editorial, TASER International will point out that Dr. Stanbrook’s editorial is based primarily on a 2005 article from the Arizona Republic as his ONLY source that TASER International has “’sponsored research to prove the Taser's safety,’ he continues. ‘Just about all the research, as it turns out.’” Over the three years since that article was written, much of the research by the Governments of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and leading academic and medical institutions has been funded independent of TASER International. To date, there are more than 120 major studies or analysis of TASER devices and TASER technology with more than 80 percent of them funded independent of TASER International. In fact, the US Department of Justice has been a prolific funder of TASER research recently and one of the first to fund human studies.
Finally, I have provided you with a press release issued this morning by TASER International regarding a Summit County, Ohio law suit involving erroneous medical examiner reports in three cases involving TARSER devices. I thought that you find this of interest and relevant.
<<080505 Summit Co OH Lawsuit.doc>>
The following is the official statement of TASER International regarding the Canadian Medical Association Journal article “Cardiac stimulation with high voltage discharge from stun guns”:
The manuscript released today by researchers at the University of Toronto appears to be a discussion paper that offers no new research. Rather it appears to be simply a discussing of prior papers and findings. TASER International is dismayed by attempts to present this information as something it is not.
Most important to note is that the authors of this manuscript themselves, in their conclusion, clearly state that there are “many studies suggesting that stun guns do not affect the heart” and that, “the evidence and studies presented in this review suggest that, in some circumstances, stun guns may stimulate the heart while discharges are being applied. However, there is no conclusive evidence to show whether stun gun stimulation (under certain electrophysiological conditions) can result in cardiac arrhythmias late after stun gun discharge.”
The authors, also in their conclusion, acknowledge that final conclusions should not be drawn solely from the referenced pig studies and call for human studies to be done: “In our view, it is inappropriate to conclude that stun gun discharges cannot lead to adverse cardiac consequences in all real world settings. We believe that the findings that stun gun discharges are able, under specific circumstances, to stimulate the heart should be taken into account in future studies involving people. Whether stun guns can stimulate the heart can only be established if one can record electrical activity in the heart during a discharge, especially when the vector of discharge is directed across the heart. Additional research studies involving people will help to resolve the conflicting theoretical and experimental findings, and they could lead to the design of devices with electrical pulses that cannot stimulate the heart.”
To this point exactly, three human studies on the effects of TASER® electronic control devices will be presented at the Heart Rhythm Society’s Heart Rhythm 2008
(Thursday May 15, 2008) Presenting Rhythm in Sudden Custodial Deaths After Use of TASER® Electronic Control Device, Charles Swerdlow, MD, FHRS, Mark W. Kroll, PhD, FHRS, Howard Williams, Mazda Biria, MD, Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, MD and Patrick J. Tchou, MD. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, San Marcos Police Department, San Marcos, TX, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH.
(Friday May 16, 2008) Can Electrical-Conductive Weapons (TASER®) alter the functional integrity of pacemakers and defibrillators and cause rapid myocardial capture? Dhanunjaya R. Lakkireddy, MD, Mazda Biria, MD, Esam Baryun, MD, Loren Berenbom, MD, Rhea Pimentel, MD, Martin P. Emert, MD, Kevin Kreighbaum, RN, Mark W. Kroll, PhD and Atul Verma, MD. Mid America Cardiology @ University of Kansas Hospital, Kansas City, KS, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, Southlake Regional Health Center, Toronto, ON, Canada.
(Friday May 16, 2008) Echocardiographic Evaluation of Human Transcutaneous TASER® Application Along the Cardiac Axis, Jeffrey D. Ho, MD, Donald M. Dawes, MD, Robert F. Reardon, MD, Anne L. Lapine, MD, Jeremy D. Olsen, MD, Benjamin J. Dolan, BA and James R. Miner, MD. Hennepin County Medical Center, Minneapolis, MN, Lompoc District Hospital, Lompoc, CA.
The Heart Rhythm Society is the international leader in science, education and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education and optimal health care policies and standards.