Dr. Douglas Zipes recently had a case series publish in one of the American Heart Association’s journals called, Circulation.
Zipes’ article is not a position paper by the American Heart Association. A case study or even a case series should report interesting associations and novel curiosities of medicine based on uncontrolled and anecdotal observations. His article provides observational data from a series of 8 cases provided to him in his disclosed role as a plaintiff’s expert during litigation of these cases. He does not conclude that these cases reveal a fundamental flaw in the design of the devices.
The American Medical Association issued a White (Position) Paper on TASER safety in June 2009 that states:
Clearly Dr. Zipes has a strong financial incentive based on his career as an expert witness, which might help explain why he disagrees with the findings of independent medical examiners with no pecuniary interest in these cases as well as the U.S. Department of Justice’s independent study that concluded:
There are critical statements in this three-year study called, Study of Deaths Following Electro Muscular Disruption, in which a panel of experts examined why individuals died after exposure to a TASER device (aka CED) during encounters with law enforcement. The panel, selected in collaboration with the College of American Pathologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Association of Medical Examiners, reviewed nearly 300 cases to determine whether CEDs contributed to or were the primary cause of death.
The panel found that while in some cases the possibility that the direct effects of a CED can be lethal cannot be excluded, the risk of death due to the electrical effects of a CED has not been conclusively demonstrated and that caution should be used when interpreting the inclusion of a CED on a death certificate or the classification of the manner of death as a homicide as an absolute indictment of the CED as the sole or primary reason for the death.
The panel found that from a medical perspective, law enforcement need not refrain from using CEDs, provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines and appropriate policy. The use of a CED on potentially at-risk individuals should be minimized or avoided unless the situation excludes other reasonable options. It is critical to minimize or avoid multiple or prolonged activations of CEDs to subdue an individual. However, there may be circumstances where this is required.
The panel members included a cardiologist, an emergency medicine doctor, five medical examiners, and a toxicologist. Consulting specialists were available to the panel as needed and included an anesthesiologist, clinical pathologist, epidemiologist, electrical engineer, neurologist, and psychiatrist.