Real-world effects of stun gun use raises questions about safety

January 24th, 2009 - 2:50 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, January 24 (ANI): Scientists at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) have found that the rate of sudden deaths increased six-fold in the first year that California law enforcement agencies deployed the use of stun guns.
The researchers have also observed a two-fold increase in the rate of firearm-related deaths during the same time period.
The team surveyed the Taser, the most widely used brand of stun gun, for outcomes related to the deployment of the device.
Such guns deliver a high-frequency, high-voltage current to incapacitate victims by causing momentary neuromuscular incapacitation.
Dr. Zian H. Tseng, the author of the study, said that the team observed that the real-world effects of Tasers use posed greater medical risk and more danger than previously reported.
While the device has been advertised to decrease the number of shooting deaths and officer injuries, Tseng said that the current research showed an increase rather than a reduction in the rate of shooting deaths, and no change in officer injuries following Taser deployment.
The study showed that the rates of sudden and firearm-related deaths declined back to near pre-deployment levels after the first year of Taser usage.
The team postulated that law enforcement agencies self-corrected, likely adjusting their usage protocol or technique after the first year.
Physicians and law enforcement agencies need real-world knowledge of the effects of Taser use so that risks can be weighed in establishing appropriate policies and techniques, said Tseng, senior author on the paper published online by the American Journal of Cardiology.
There have been a number of animal and controlled human studies, but none that test how Tasers are used in the real world, where subjects may have pre-existing medical conditions or be under the influence of narcotics..
If law enforcement agencies using Tasers understood the risks and were trained to recognize cardiac arrest, sudden death events could be averted with timely deployment of external fibrillation or by knowing where not to apply the devices current, such as near the heart, Tseng said.
The researcher added: Further epidemiologic research is clearly needed. Without full transparency by law enforcement agencies, it is possible that our observed outcomes may actually be an underestimation of the real risks of Taser use. (ANI)

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