Monday, March 16, 2009

Seizure by taser; available in a store near you (only available to selected States, sorry).

Tasers are more effective than ever, especially in the "head zone":

Sue Bailey

OTTAWA – Stun guns can cause seizures if their tiny electric barbs pierce the scalp and shock the brain, says a new article on the accidental jolting of a police officer.

The unnamed Ontario cop, in his 30s, was chasing a suspected robber when he was hit in the back of the head with a Taser fired by his partner.

Within seconds, the officer collapsed and went into a full-blown seizure – foaming at the mouth – for about a minute, says the article co-written by Toronto neurologist Dr. Richard Wennberg.

[The accident] is published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal released Monday.


"Our report shows that a Taser shot to the head may result in brain-specific complications. It also suggests that seizure should be added to the list of Taser-related adverse events."

What appears to be a rare if not isolated case should serve as a cautionary tale, Wennberg said in an interview, especially as Taser use grows.

"In that [a seizure caused by a taser] hadn't ever been reported before, we felt sort of obligated to report on it in the medical literature so that people would know that for sure this can happen.

"To discharge that amount of electrical current in a region overlying the brain, it didn't seem impossible to me that this could happen in a mechanism similar to giving electroconvulsive therapy or something like that."

Wennberg says stun guns pack about the same jolt used to induce seizures in electroshock therapy. [...]

The police officer came out of his seizure bewildered and with a severe headache. He was later diagnosed with a concussion, likely from the impact of the dart or from hitting his head after collapsing. He still suffers headaches and has difficulty concentrating 18 months later, Wennberg said.

He has not had any seizures since. [...]

"Taser International is aware of a few incidents during training in which an officer experienced a seizure following a hit by a Taser device."

Those incidents were not written up in medical reports. But the company's document 'Product Warnings: Law Enforcement' clearly warns against targeting sensitive areas such as the head and further states that the risk of a seizure "may be heightened if electrical stimuli or current passes through the head region." [...]

"They certainly don't mean for these things to ever be aimed at the head – nor was it meant to be in this case even. But it wouldn't always have to be an accident. I'd be surprised if (a seizure) didn't happen most of the time to people if they actually did get Tasered in the head."

Taser International has steadfastly defended the relative safety of its devices although it stresses that no use-of-force tool is risk-free.

More than 20 Canadians have died after being Tasered. [...]

- Toronto Star: Tasers can cause seizures
- Canadian Medical Association Journal: Generalized tonic-clonic seizure after taser shot to head (pdf)
- Tasers are effective WHEREVER you aim for! No Permit Needed and On Sale for only $399!!!

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