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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chief: Officers right to Taser diabetic

December 3, 2008
By TOM McCOAG, The Chronicle Herald

AMHERST — Amherst police officers who used a stun gun on a man suffering from hypoglycemia in September were properly following procedure, the town’s police chief says.

"I have received the investigation conducted by our Taser trainers," Chief Charles Rushton said Tuesday. "It shows the officers involved followed federal, provincial and Amherst Police Department guidelines," Chief Charles Rushton said Tuesday.

He said it would be improper to comment further because his review of the Sept. 14 incident isn’t finished.

"I have just received more information and I want to ensure the review is as thorough as it can be," Chief Rushton said. "I expect it will be ready in two to three weeks."

The completed report will then be presented to the Amherst police commission, he said.

Provincial guidelines leave the decision to use a Taser in the hands of police officers at the scene but suggest the stun gun only be discharged "where a subject exhibits behaviour consistent with aggressive or violent resistance or active threat that may cause serious injury to the police officer, the subject or the public."

The Amherst incident made headlines in September when the man’s wife demanded an inquiry. She said she couldn’t believe police would zap someone suffering from hypoglycemia.

The woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, declined to comment on the chief’s statement Tuesday because she had not heard him make it.

"I have not talked to them, so I don’t think I should say anything," she said.

In September, she told The Chronicle Herald that her children couldn’t wake up her diabetic husband, so she checked his blood sugar, found it was the lowest she’d ever seen it, and called paramedics.

She acknowledged that her six-foot, 230-pound husband would not keep still for the paramedics and they asked for her permission to call police for help in restraining him. His life was in danger and they needed to get an IV into him quickly, they said.

She left the room as police arrived and didn’t hear any signs of a struggle but soon heard an officer warning her husband that he would be Tasered. By the time she got back to the room, her husband had been jolted with the stun gun and was sitting up, crying.

Paramedics were able to insert the IV but the man refused to go to the hospital. He eventually recovered. The woman maintained that the improvement in her husband’s behaviour was the result of a glucose shot, not from being Tasered.

Her husband didn’t remember the incident and wanted it forgotten, she said. But she said she wanted an independent inquiry because she couldn’t believe police would use a stun gun on a sick man.

She did not get the external review she asked for, but police did launch an internal inquiry as provincial guidelines require.

Readers sent dozens of letters to The Chronicle Herald and its website condemning police for their actions.

While the incident was the first reported case in Nova Scotia of a stun gun being used on a diabetic with hypoglycemia, the Internet is full of stories about it happening elsewhere.

In London, England, in November 2007, police stunned a man in a diabetic coma because they thought he was a suicide bomber, the Daily Mail reported. And a February 2005 story in the Sentinel, a daily newspaper in Pennsylvania, detailed how police Tasered a diabetic man who was disoriented because of low blood sugar. The article quoted Dr. Richard Hornichter, a Los Angeles expert on diabetes, saying that Taser shocks are no more dangerous to a diabetic than to anybody else.

1 comment:

chetthejet said...

To police without training as to the effects of hypoglycemia, resistant behavior can be mistaken for a wanton act. But when the disorientation of a low-blood sugar event takes place, using a stun gun falls into the category of mean-spirited.

If one doctor says the stun is no more dangerous to a diabetic than anyone else, it can also be said that the stun is a highly dangerous to a diabetic as anyone else.

I stick to previous comment whereby my diabetes education taught me that many who suffer from diabetes also suffer from some form of heart disease. That makes for risky odds.

I give the doctor a minus grade for a lack of common sense and the police a minus grade for pure stupidiy and meanness.