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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yet another taser casualty

by digby

They re reported every day. I noticed this one in particular because it's yet another in a long line of tasers killing epileptics:

An electrical discharge from a Vermont state trooper’s Taser weapon caused the death of a Thetford man three months ago outside his home, the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office advised Vermont State Police Friday.

Macadam Mason, 39, suffered “sudden cardiac death due to conducted electrical weapon discharge,” Vermont State Police reported late Friday afternoon in a statement relaying the conclusions from Mason’s autopsy in New Hampshire.

Mason died June 20 outside his Thetford home after Senior Trooper David Shaffer fired his Taser at Mason’s chest.

The finding on the cause of death spurred more calls for change in how Vermont law-enforcement officers are trained on and use Tasers.

The man was an epileptic.  People on the scene told the police he was an epileptic and was having a mental break following a seizure.  They begged them not to use the taser.  They did anyway.

And the following will make it far less likely that there will be sanctions against the police:
State Police said the New Hampshire Medical Examiner’s Office also reported Mason had other “significant conditions” — including heart disease and Excited Delirium Syndrome.
Right. If you have a heart disease and a cop tasers you (for whatever reason) it's your fault for dying from the electrical charge that stops your heart. And I don't need to reiterate the absolute pile of stinking garbage that is Taser International's favorite "syndrome" called "excited delirium." All this means is that if you are stressed when a policeman kills you with a taser, it's your fault for dying.

I've been writing about this for a long time. But it's getting more and more common for medical examiners to cite this "cause of death" when police electrocute citizens with tasers. Unfortunately, this has been lost in all the controversy:
In "Taser firms picked up coroner's lecture tab" the Globe reports that Taser International has paid hotel and travel expenses for prominent Canadian coronor Dr. James Cairns, Ontario's deputy chief coronor, who has given seminars "on the phenomenon of "excited delirium," a medically unrecognized term that the company often cites as a reason people die after being tasered". The article indicates that Dr. Cairns does not see any conflict of interest on his part. [The Globe & Mail also reports that Dr. Cairns admitted in testimony yesterday at an Ontario inquiry that he had helped shield disgraced pathologist Charles Smith.] 

In "Symposium aims to define 'excited delirium' DEATHS IN CUSTODY: TASER HELPS FUND RESEARCH" the Globe and Mail reports on the second annual Sudden Death, Excited Delirium and In-Custody Death Conference underway in Las Vegas. Many of the nearly 20 talks touch on the role of Tasers. "The key issue is "excited delirium", a collection of symptoms that is quickly becoming the leading explanation offered when a person dies in police custody or after a taser is used." Two researchers who presented disclosed that Taser International funds their research. As reported by the Globe & Mail, the Taser subsidized research presenters "conducted research on the negative effects of taser use on the human body; they found very few".
Taser International conducted junkets to "educate" medical examiners on "excited delirium." The result is that while it's not accepted as a professional diagnosis according to the medical manuals, it's now accepted as an excuse for the authorities to hold police harmless when they kill someone with a taser.

As the spokesman for Taser explained:
Tuttle defended the safety of the Taser, noting the National Institute of Justice “concluded that there is no conclusive medical evidence in the current body of research literature that indicates a high risk of serious injury or death to humans from the direct or indirect cardiovascular or metabolic effects of short-term Taser exposure in healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons.”
See? If you get stopped by the police and you are sure you are healthy, normal, non-stressed and nonintoxicated (which is still legal, by the way) you have nothing to worry about. So just make sure you don't have any unknown heart conditions or physical abnormalities --- or suffer from anxiety when confronted by police --- because they have the right to kill you on the spot. Just a little word to the wise.