Taser lawsuit draws attention to cardiac arrest and death side effects

A CNN article declares that the use of Tasers by police is under scrutiny, since use of Tasers has caused deaths and injuries.

Tasers have been used by police to kill a man while taunting him with racial epithets, to Taser a 10-year-old girl to get her to take a bath, and engage in a drive-by tasering of an unidentified suspect, just to name a few bizarre and unjust instances.

CNN in particular highlights the experience of Steven Butler, who was Tasered by police because he was “drunk and disorderly.” He suffered immediate cardiac arrest, according to doctors. His brain may have been deprived of oxygen for as long as 18 minutes, and he is now permanently disabled. As a result, his family has filed a lawsuit against the maker of the Taser, Taser Internnational (full article here).

Once again, police do not seem to understand the purpose of their existence. These days, it is a radical proposition to say that police are hired to make society safer and to protect people.

People who are drunk and disorderly are a nuisance at the most. If Butler was actually dangerous, he likely would have been charged with some kind of drunk in public offense (which usually requires that one be extremely drunk and causing danger to himself or others). Thus, before police intervention, the Butler situation was one of nuisance and annoyance. After police intervention, the damage done consisted of the far greater harms of cardiac arrest and brain damage.

The same was the case with Baron Pikes – before police intervention, society had a suspected drug user. There was no imminent danger, and no one was being harmed. After police Taser  intervention, society was left with a video tape of cops screaming “n*gger” and subsequently a dead man (with no trace of drugs in his system).

Again, with the 10-year-old who wouldn’t take a bath – before police intervention, all there was, was a misbehaving child. After police intervention, society was left with an injured and tortured child.

In none of these situations did police actually keep anyone safe or make anything better. Very clearly, they made the situation much worse, in all of these circumstances.

Dr. Douglas Zipes, a cardiologist, intends to testify against Taser in the Butler lawsuit. He says that Taser International was dishonest in their assertion that there was no cardiac risk of being Tasered.  Other medical experts say that people hit by a Taser near the chest experience a significant increase in heart rate – up to 220 beats a minute.

Tasers have caused death and significant injury, but are not classified as a firearm. They are technically an “electronic control device.” San Francisco is one of the few big-city police departments that do not use Tasers. The chief of police in San Francisco George Gascon wants to institute Tasers, but admits that to call it “nonlethal” is incorrect.

Ultimately, the title of the CNN article is misleading. The “scrutiny” is not by the government, but is by private lawyers suing for victims such as Butler. The government is not rethinking its brutal treatment of citizens, nor is it reconsidering its use of dangerous weapons in unwarranted situations, sometimes on completely innocent people.

The article notes Taser International has seen increasing profits due to police and private use of Tasers. As much as Taser International sounds like a despicable little business, the real blame must lie with the government. Without the consistent and zealous support of state police departments everywhere and without government funding, Taser International would not be as successful or as profitable as it is. Indeed, it might not even exist.

Taser International has no contractual duty to the people; the government does. Taser International has never promised to be accountable to the people or to serve the people; the government has. Yet the ongoing “scrutiny” over the dangerousness of these products is being pursued by private people.

It’s not difficult to see where this is all going – if, or when the evidence shows that Tasers are in fact dangerous, overused, and frequently abused by police, the government will disclaim any responsibility, and Taser International will go down as the fall guy.

As with so many government blunders, the blame will shifted to the private party involved, even though it was government funding, government policy, and government support that allowed the private party to flourish in the first place.

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Georgia Sand

Georgia (George) Sand is an attorney located in sunny California. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach, music, and chatting with her cats in her spare time.