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A taser is a weapon used by police in order to provide a safe means of subduing an uncooperative person via an “electric shock”. This handheld device features two small barbed darts designed to puncture the skin. These darts are connected via copper wires to a main unit which delivers an electric current to the individual causing neuromuscular incapacitation by disrupting the voluntary control of muscles(1). A number of studies have raised concern over the health risks of tasers, including ventricular arrhythmias and cardiac arrest(2). Something I have come across during my training was a case of complete heart block provoked by a taser discharge. This phenomenon is not frequently described in the literature.
The patient in question had cardiac arrest immediately after receiving a discharge from a taser during an altercation with police. Thankfully, he was given bystander CPR and had return of spontaneous circulation after 3 minutes. On presentation to the Emergency Department the patient was found to be in complete heart block. He was admitted acutely to the coronary care unit for monitoring and had a permanent pacemaker inserted three days later.
The taser is considered a non-lethal weapon but can it truly be considered such?
Since it is not thought of as a firearm, taser use is not regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The main objective of this article is not to comment on the propriety of taser...
Since it is not thought of as a firearm, taser use is not regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The main objective of this article is not to comment on the propriety of tasers, since it is the law enforcement authorities who must make a judgement call on that. However, I do believe that authorities should be judicious in its application. It is my opinion that a taser should be given equal consideration to a firearm since the consequences of discharging a taser can indeed be lethal.
1. Ideker RE, Dosdall DJ. Can the direct cardiac effects of the electric pulses generated by the TASER X26 cause immediate or delayed sudden cardiac arrest in normal adults?. The American journal of forensic medicine and pathology. 2007 Sep 1;28(3):195-201.
2. Zipes DP. Sudden cardiac arrest and death following application of shocks from a TASER electronic control device. Circulation. 2012 May 22;125(20):2417-22.