Taser use in restraint-related deaths

Prehospital Emergency Care : Official Journal of the National Association of EMS Physicians and the National Association of State EMS Directors
J Strote, H Range Hutson

Abstract

The Taser is an electric weapon capable of releasing significant amounts of electricity in rapid pulses, causing uncontrollable muscle contraction. Use of this weapon has dramatically increased over the past decade, and it is now commonly used by law enforcement officers nationwide. Emergency medical services providers are, likewise, seeing more patients who have recently been subjected to application of a Taser. We examined the autopsy reports of patients who died after application of a Taser in an attempt to identify high-risk interactions. This is a case series of Taser-related deaths. Fatalities occurring over four years beginning in January 2001 were identified through an Internet search, and autopsy reports were requested. Reports were analyzed for patient demographics, preexisting cardiac disease, toxicology, evidence of excited delirium, restraint techniques used, and listed cause of death. Of 75 cases identified, 37 (49.3%) had autopsy reports available for review. All cases involved men, with ages ranging from 18 to 50 years. Cardiovascular disease was found in 54.1%. Illegal substance use was found on toxicology screening for 78.4%; within that group, 86.2% were found to have been using stimulants. A diagnosis of exc...Continue Reading

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