Response to Letter Regarding Article, “TASER Electronic Control Devices Can Cause Cardiac Arrest in Humans”
More than 40 years ago, we demonstrated summation and voltage dependency in the atrioventricular node.1 When the manuscript reviewer asked for P values, senior author Gordon Moe said, “Unequivocal demonstration of an event establishes unequivocally that it happens. We don’t need to sacrifice more rabbits to show how often it happens.”
In his letter, Dr Sheridan agrees that 1 study2 has unequivocally shown cardiac capture at 240 bpm for 10 seconds in a human with an experimental TASER model. (To the best of my knowledge, TASER has never revealed the specifications of that model and the differences, if any, between it and the X26.) Remarkably, the darts in that patient were relatively far from the heart, with 1 dart to the right of the midline chest at an apparent skin-to-heart distance of 2.57 cm and the other in the right groin. A second case3 exists of documented cardiac capture at rates exceeding 200 bpm during two 5-second TASER X26 deployments in a patient with a pacemaker.
Dr Moe would ask, “How many times does cardiac capture with 2 different TASER models need to be shown to accept that it happens?” And if it happens, then under the appropriate circumstances, at those fast heart rates (eg, high sympathetic tone in a resisting individual, repeated or prolonged trigger pulls, presence of heart disease or drugs), ventricular fibrillation (VF) can result. In addition to these 2 documented instances, several police videos exist of individuals suddenly losing consciousness and becoming nonresponsive at the time of TASER shock delivery, with VF later documented. These serve as field experiments supporting the conclusion that TASER X26 shocks can induce VF. The issue is not whether the TASER shock can produce VF but rather how often it occurs, which cannot be established given the present data.4
To answer Dr Sheridan’s request for precise scientific documentation, the issue could be studied in anesthetized individuals about to receive an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator,4 assuming someone really wants the answer. VF is usually induced in these individuals before cardioverter-defibrillator implantation and could be done using the TASER X26 shock with strategically placed chest barbs while recording from an intracavitary lead.
Until those experiments are done, we are left with an important public health issue. Read the newspapers. Individuals are still dying after TASER X26 shocks to the chest. There is no governmental oversight to regulate the use of these weapons.
States should at least mandate, as Connecticut finally did recently, that police departments adopt a policy on TASER use at least as stringent as a model policy developed by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council and that they report the details of each TASER deployment (sex, age, number of activations, mode, injury suffered) and the downloaded TASER logs to monitor in a statewide database.5
Douglas P. Zipes, MD
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis IN 46202
Dr Zipes has served in the past, and will probably serve in the future, as a plaintiff’s expert in TASER litigation. He owns no stock in and receives no salary from TASER, International.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.
- Zipes DP,
- Mendez C,
- Moe GK
- Zipes DP
- 5.↵State of Connecticut Substitute House Bill No. 5389, Public Act No. 14- 149. Approved June 6, 2014.