A new study published by Dr. Douglas Zipes has found that Tasers can cause death in some cases.
The study is being questioned by Taser International Inc., because Dr. Zipes has been paid to be a witness in a number of Taser-related court cases. Whether or not the study is valid, there were over 300 Taser-related deaths between 2001 and 2008, and there is a reticence by law enforcement officials and Taser International Inc. to acknowledge the potential dangers of these devices.
A number of medical examiners and Taser officials have concluded that in many Taser-related deaths, the cause of death was a case of "excited delirium," often related to mental illness or drug abuse.
While this diagnosis has faced criticism from civil rights groups, it still begs the question: if death from "excited delirium" is a possible consequence of Taser use, particularly when it comes to individuals who may have mental health or drug abuse issues, shouldn't that suggest much more cautious use of these devices?
Just over two years ago, the RCMP publicly apologized to Zofia Cisowski for the death of her son. For those who don't remember, Robert Dziekański was a Polish immigrant who became agitated at the Vancouver International Airport, and was subsequently Tasered multiple times by RCMP officers until he died.
While the RCMP did issue an apology, and while the Braidwood Commission did report that there was misconduct in the incident, very little was actually done to restrict Taser use, or properly charge the officers in question.
Tasers are still dangerous weapons. While they are restricted to law enforcement officials in Canada, they can be legally carried in 43 States in the U.S. without a permit.
Without a proper acknowledgement of the risks involved with using these weapons, there will continue to be considerable potential for abuse.