Ajust released study on Tasers no doubt piqued the interest of the family of a Mount Joy man who died after police stunned him with one of the electronic stun guns.
Two children of Robert A. Neill Jr. recently filed a federal lawsuit in Philadelphia, claiming Arizona-based Taser International makes a law-enforcement tool that is "unreasonably dangerous."
The suit also charges that local police used excessive force, including hog-tying their father, causing him to sustain head injuries and multiple rib fractures.
Neill, 61, died in the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 2010, after being tased at least three times, including once in the chest, during a confrontation with police.
Ironically, Neill had called police to his apartment, complaining of being harassed.
Taser International stands by the device, which has had 3 million uses worldwide with relatively few problems, and the company has been successful in fending off lawsuits like the one filed by the Neill family.
But the company received a shock, following release the other day of a scientific, peer-reviewed study that shows - for the first time - that Tasers can cause cardiac arrest and death.
Circulation, the American Heart Association's premier journal, published an article online that examined eight cases involved the TASER X26 ECD. Seven of the people died.
The article concludes that the shock of a Taser can trigger cardiac arrest as a result of "an abnormally rapid heart rate and uncontrolled, fluttering contractions."
Taser International criticized the study, saying the authors only looked at a handful of cases.
Indeed, Tasers figured in only a few dozen of the 500 cases worldwide where there have been deaths. Other factors, such as drug use and prior medical conditions, often came into play.
The Heart Association study may provide ammo for the Neill family as it seeks monetary compensation for the loss of a loved one.
Add previous research that has questioned the wisdom of shooting a suspect multiple times with a Taser, and the company that produces the devices may be in for the fight of its life in the Neill lawsuit.
But other research has shown that Tasers are not to be blamed - or, the evidence is inconclusive - in the vast majority of the cases worldwide where people have died.
Moreover, other research has shown that Tasers can save lives and reduce injuries among police officers.
In short, an officer is less likely to kill someone with a Taser than if he fires bullets at a suspect.
That may be the biggest thing Tasers have going for them.
- Lancaster New Era