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Heart Doctors: No Question Tasers Cause Lethal Heart Attacks
Expert opinion contradicts Taser International training guidelines

Steve Watson
day, May 22, 2008


Two prominent heart doctors have told an ongoing Canadian inquiry that there is no doubt that Taser stun guns can cause heart problems and even induce sudden and lethal cardiac arrest.

A cardiologist and a heart surgeon both stated that based on their own studies of the literature on the weapons, it is clear that they can induce ventricular fibrillation.

As reported by the Canadian Press, Dr. Michael Janusz, a heart surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of British Columbia, told the Vancouver inquiry "almost all physicians would conclude that Tasers can induce ventricular fibrillation."

Dr. Charles Kerr, another UBC professor and a heart surgeon also concluded that a Taser jolt could induce ventricular fibrillation.

"Whatever the cause of death in patients receiving Taser discharges, there does appear to be the potential of a cardiac arrest situation, as has been demonstrated on a number of occasions," Kerr said.

Ventricular fibrillation is a condition in which there is uncoordinated contraction of the cardiac muscle of the ventricles in the heart, making them tremble rather than contract properly. If the arrhythmia continues for more than a few seconds, blood circulation ceases, and death occurs in a matter of minutes.

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The two doctors also stressed that any form of underlying heart disease in addition to a general state of agitation undoubtedly increases the chance of the taser causing sudden death.

Dr. Kerr also said that police should routinely carry defibrillators if they plan to employ Tasers and should be trained to initiate resuscitation after using the Taser on someone who is then unresponsive.

"In summary, Tasers almost certainly can cause cardiac arrest in humans" Dr. Janusz said.

Despite these conclusions, according to a senior police officer, Taser International instructs that the exact opposite is true.

Staff Sgt. Joe Spindor, of the New Westminster Police Department, told the inquiry that he trains officers using Taser International guidelines and that he has never been informed of medical opinions on possible cardiac arrest.

"No. I've actually heard the opposite from Taser in my instruction." Spindor said.

Earlier this month doctors condemned as corporate "intimidation" a court decision ordering a chief medical examiner to remove any reference to the use of a taser as an antecedent in the deaths of three men.

Taser International filed and won a civil suit, forcing deletion all mentions of the weapons in the autopsy reports and requiring the deaths be termed "accidental".

The ongoing Vancouver inquiry into Taser use by municipal police, sheriffs and corrections officers comes in reponse to reports of hundreds of taser related deaths around the world, but was particularly spurred by the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in October after police used a taser on the man several times before he died on the spot.

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