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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Death by Taser assertion is 'junk science', lawyer tells Braidwood inquiry

October 13, 2009
Gerry Bellett, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — A lawyer representing Taser International attacked the medical opinions that Robert Dziekanski died as a result of being Tasered at Vancouver International Airport almost two years ago as “junk science.”

Lawyer David Neave told the Braidwood Commission inquiring into Dziekanski’s death that there was no evidence that “the Taser device caused or contributed to his death.”

“We say it is time this uninformed speculation about the role the Taser device may have had in this case be dispelled and the attack on Taser’s reputation ended,” Neave said Tuesday.

Various opinions from 15 medical experts have been submitted to the inquiry regarding the use of the Taser and its effect on Dziekanski, ranging from those who have worked for Taser — claiming the device does not cause heart failure and death — to those who said otherwise.

Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, at the airport’s international arrivals area following a confrontation with four RCMP officers who Tasered him five times.

Neave said physicians who testified the Taser contributed to the death had no scientific studies to back up their claims, whereas the experts who said Tasers did not cause the heart to stop functioning had conducted studies to support their findings.

He said a severe electrical shock would stop the heart instantly, whereas Dziekanski was seen to continue struggling on the ground with police after he had been Tasered.

Neave said Dziekanski presented the classic profile of someone who dies during restraint by the police, as he appeared to be in a state of delirium prior to the incident, which was likely caused by alcohol abuse and withdrawal.

“There are thousands of cases each year where a Taser device is safely deployed by law enforcement personnel on individuals who are distraught or unstable,” he said.

“The factual evidence together with medical research on sudden death during restraint excludes the Taser device as the cause or a contributory to Mr. Dziekanski’s death.

“Sudden in-custody deaths of the sort Dr. [Charles] Lee [who conducted the autopsy] discussed in his report have been documented for more than 150 years and have been associated with every police restraint or technique or tool that has been used. The Taser device is just the next one in this long line,” he said.

“Cases often occur without a Taser being deployed. Without the mechanism of such deaths being known, we say it is speculative to say the Taser deployment caused or contributed to Mr. Dziekanski’s sudden death and for these reasons we ask you to make these findings:

“That Mr. Dziekanski was in an acute emotional, physical and physiological crisis the night he died, which some experts term delirium. The cause of his state is unknown, but likely was associated with alcohol abuse and withdrawal.

“There is a risk of sudden death associated with these states. There is no evidence on post-mortem or expert opinions to explain the mechanisms of his death. On all of the available evidence, it would be speculative and misleading to conclude the Taser deployment caused or contributed to [Dziekanski’s] death either directly or indirectly,” Neave said.

Taser International has always maintained that its devices did not cause death. But recently, the company released an advisory to police and other law enforcement agencies not to aim the device at the area of the heart, but to use it against other parts of the body.

Meanwhile, a memorial mass will be held Wednesday for Dziekanski, on the second anniversary of his death, at Holy Rosary Cathedral on Richards Street in Vancouver at 5 p.m.

1 comment:

Rory Rickwood said...

It would not have been junk science for Taser International to put two fingers to Mr. Dziekanski's neck to see his body was struggling for oxygen after his heart stopped.

It's time for the Braidwood Taser Homicide Inquiry to answer the question,"why". Hope that the Braidwood report in 2010 forces our government to step up to the plate and be the regulator of taser deployments.

More views can be found at:

http://twitter.com/RoryRickwood and http://theduckshoot.com/blog/