Questions about the safety of taser stun guns used by police forces across the globe have been raging ever since the supposedly non-lethal weapons first came into use over a decade ago.
Amnesty International, the company’s most vocal critic, has compiled figures indicating that at least 500 people in the USA have died since 2001 after being shocked with Tasers, and according to more conservative, but no less shocking, figures published by the US Justice Department, 184 people have died since 1986 after being stunned by a taser.
Taser International, the company that manufactures the 50,000 volt devices, has vehemently contested that the weapons are unsafe and has fought back in court when people say otherwise. Often the blame will fall back upon the victim’s drug abuse, weak heart or propensity to die suddenly from the debatable medical term known as ‘excited delirium’ – which Amnesty cites as a cause of death in 111 of 334 cases it has documented.
But there is a mounting tide of scientific proof that appears to question Taser’s claims. Since 2006 there have been a number of peer reviewed animal research studies demonstrating cardiac risk from the taser.
And earlier this month, Dr Douglas Zipes, one of the world’s most prominent cardiac electrophysiologists, published in the journal of the American Heart Association the first peer-reviewed human study demonstrating that darts in the chest can cause sudden death.
In an interview with ABC, Dr Zipes, of the Indiana University School of Medicine concluded: ‘It is absolutely unequivocal based on my understanding of how electricity works on the heart, based on good animal data and based on numerous clinical situations that the taser unquestionably can produce sudden cardiac arrest and death.’