December 5, 2008
Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at the University of Montreal, is the lead author of a new analysis on the health risk of Tasers.
Savard's main professional work has mapped the flow of electrical current through the human torso. He developed a system that placed 256 electrodes on the surface of the heart to understand what happens when it suffers an abnormal electrical pattern that can precede a heart attack. This was done so doctors can better track where heart problems begin.
Savard said he first looked at Taser safety last year when police authorities in Quebec wanted to know if it was safe to use two Tasers on one person.
He said he presented his findings on Tasers to a commission in Ottawa probing the safety of the stun guns. Later, he gave a similar presentation to officials in British Columbia in a probe known as the Braidwood inquiry.
That inquiry looked into what happened in the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish man who was shot with Tasers by police after becoming unruly at Vancouver International Airport. The inquiry also examined the safety of Tasers generally.
"At first I thought (Taser) was a great product," Savard said in an interview with The Arizona Republic. "My point of view is that police officers already carry firearms, which are definitely more dangerous. So the Taser is much less dangerous to start with. But it should be used in a cautious manner."
Savard determined that Tasers accelerate heart beats in a way that can be deadly for some people, especially those with heart disease. He also concluded that existing research on healthy animals and humans is inadequate to fully gauge the risk Tasers may pose.
Savard said before his commissioned work for the Canadian Broadcast Corp., he has never been paid for his work related to Taser products and the company never responded to it. He said he also never worked with groups opposed to Taser like Amnesty International or the American Civil Liberties Union.
"As a scientist . . . the risk is not zero," Savard said. "After that, police officers can make their own judgments that we can use the Taser is such-and-such circumstances. . . . It's not that I don't like Taser. The risk is not zero."
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Friday, December 05, 2008
December 5, 2008