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Testing the Safety of Tasers On Meth-Addled Sheep 253

Funded in part by Taser International, a recent study was done to learn the effects of being tasered while on methamphetamines. Since someone would probably complain about researchers going around and tasering meth addicts, they used sheep instead. From the article: "The less-lethal device of choice was the Taser X26, a standard law enforcement tool which can fire at suspects from a distance of 35 feet. Researchers shocked sixteen anesthetized sheep after dosing the animals with an IV drip of methamphetamine hydrochloride. Some of the smaller sheep weighing less than 70.5 pounds suffered exacerbated heart symptoms related to meth use. But neither the smaller nor larger sheep showed signs of the ventricular fibrillation condition, a highly abnormal heart rhythm that can become fatal."


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Testing the Safety of Tasers On Meth-Addled Sheep

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  • by seifried ( 12921 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @02:20AM (#31854458) Homepage
    "But neither the smaller nor larger sheep showed signs of the ventricular fibrillation condition" is all well and good but I have to wonder if the fact that the sheep were sedated might not help out with this.
  • Hmm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frogbert ( 589961 ) <frogbert@gmail. c o m> on Thursday April 15, 2010 @02:33AM (#31854534)

    I wonder if they figured out what would happen if they tazed the sheep 20 or so times in short succession.

  • by vandan ( 151516 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @02:35AM (#31854542) Homepage

    The 'less lethal' argument is complete bullshit. The fact is that police are far more likely to use 'less' lethal weapons, on the assumption that there is much lower burden on them to prove the need for weapons use. There are many more situations completely out of the control of police that turn 'less' lethal weapons into 'completely' lethal weapons.

      - heart conditions, pacemakers etc ( yes, young people can have pacemakers )
      - pregnancy
      - short period of time since last taser assaults ( we've all seen videos of repeated taser assaults )

    If police can't subdue people with their bare hands and training, then they shouldn't be police. Giving them so-called 'non' or 'less' lethal weapons only leads to more deaths due to a massive increase in the use of the weapons, combined with a very worrying deathrate ( hundreds of deaths per year according to Amnesty International ). As for police in the US where everyone has a gun ... I have no answer for that. Do whatever the hell you want over there. In sane countries where it's illegal to carry around lethal weapons, I expect the police to also be unarmed.

  • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @02:49AM (#31854626)

    The 'less lethal' argument is complete bullshit.

    No it isn't. A taser is a lot less lethal then a 9mm pistol.

    The assertion is that police are far more likely to use 'less' lethal weapons

    First, FTFY, that's an assertion not a fact.

    Second, not when a taser discharge is treated the same as other firearm discahrges by police forces. This of course requires an actual procedure in place to ensure weapon discharges are investigated, but with the Australian Police forces they are.

    - heart conditions, pacemakers etc ( yes, young people can have pacemakers )
    - pregnancy
    - short period of time since last taser assaults ( we've all seen videos of repeated taser assaults )

    So a 9mm pistol or baton is going to be much better.

    The problem is procedural, abuse will occur unless each discharge is investigated. Choice of weapon doesn't matter here.

  • by lxs ( 131946 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @03:01AM (#31854696)

    That the study was conducted at the behest of Taser International on a handful of sheep who were anesthetized (which at the very least meant that stress levels were far lower than those of conscious subjects ) gives me no cause for suspicion at all.

  • by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @03:58AM (#31854938)
    There's that, and an extraordinarily small sample size. Not to mention the sheep were supposedly all in good health, unlike possible human victims.
    As far as a medical study goes to prove or disprove reports of complications in field conditions with actual humans, it's a worthless piece of shit. (And I'm being nice about it.)
    It's obviously propaganda as opposed to credible science.

    Not to sound like a tinfoil hat wearer, but do you think funding of the study by the Taser company and it being done by stockholders in the same company might have something to do with it?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2010 @04:05AM (#31854970)

    On those rare occasions I have fallen over as an adult it hurts. Fortunately I have avoided serious injury because I was able to protect myself to some extent with my arms, and by bending my body to move my head out of danger.

    When you're tasered you will certainly fall down, and you will certainly be unable to protect yourself. Even when the police officers who use the taser have to be tasered themselves as part of their training, the situation is unreal because they are placed on gym mats to soften their fall, and in any case other officers are present to control the fall. To make it more realistic they should be placed on a concrete surface with no colleagues in support. That way, they could enjoy the random head injury experience of the average victim.

    I am surprised more taser victims haven't died from head injuries.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2010 @04:16AM (#31855008)

    "No it isn't. A taser is a lot less lethal then a 9mm pistol."

    Someone has no clue how electricity works, I see.

    let me put those probes one to each nipple and let's see how long you live with 50,000V disrupting the bio-electric functions in your heart.

    Deal. I point the handgun at your center mass, you start shocking me with a standard stun gun or TASEr as I fire. We'll see which is more lethal...

  • by Rollgunner ( 630808 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @04:16AM (#31855012)

    If police can't subdue people with their bare hands and training, then they shouldn't be police.

    Subdual is accomplished through pain deterrence; I.E. "I will keep hurting you until you stop resisting."

    People on meth have wildly malfunctioning nervous systems, including specifically pain receptors.

    Pain may not be a deterrent. Repeated impacts with a nightstick may not be a deterrent, even if such impacts do significant structural damage to the body. That's the 'joy' of chemical enhancement, be it narcotic or adrenal : You can be dead and just not know it yet.

    A weapon that *overrides* the nervous system, OTOH, is nearly 100% effective at short term restraint.

    If I go to a party and someone slips a narcotic in my drink, I'd rather be tazed by the police (whom I think are big cuddly blue bears that want to hug and dance with me) than to be shot with a bullet or beaten into unconsciousness and/or death because I was mentally incapable of following the officers' commands.

  • by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @04:35AM (#31855086) Journal
    This study can be used in the fly over states when grandparents or the young or pregnant woman seek a legal remedy after been subjected to "legal" electrical pain compliance.
    Always follow the funding trail of any US "study".
    "Court OKs Repeated Tasering of Pregnant Woman" []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:05AM (#31855200)

    That is a very valid point.

    Not only the purity, but what method was used to 'cook' the meth.

    Was it a lepto or a dextro isomer? was it racemic? and what ratios?

    All of that makes a huge difference.

    *related to your 'purity'*
    Since meth is almost universally 'cut' to 50% by the 'cook[1]' before leaving, and frequently 'cut' many times before it hits the streets, well, I guess it depends on what each 'cut' was made with. Purity is a joke, and I assume that was your point. :-)

    Making meth is Stupid Simple for anyone with a background in organic chemistry...I should know. ;-)

    [1] According to Uncle Fester [], which I take his experienced word to heart.

  • by mikael_j ( 106439 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:21AM (#31855238)

    Actually, if you were to give an alcoholic, a meth addict and an opiate addict free access to their drug of choice as well as food, shelter and other basic necessities chances are that ten years later the opiate addict would be the healthiest of the three, most likely he/she wouldn't just be a little healthier than the other two others either. Basically ethyl alcohol is poison, not in the war on drugs "drugs are bad, mmkay?" sense but actually poisonous. As for methamphetamine, well the lifestyle that comes with the drug doesn't exactly lend itself to leading a long and healthy life. As for opiate addicts, while it's likely they'd often forget about things like basic hygiene and eating and they might suffer from constipation it's not like just being high on opiates does anywhere near the damage to your body that alcohol or methamphetamine does.

  • by MartinSchou ( 1360093 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @05:26AM (#31855252)

    It may well be that 'excited delirium' is the cause of death. What I want to know though, is just how many people have been diagnosed with 'excited delirium' outside of a mortuary? And what is the percentage of sufferers of 'excited delirium' who haven't been tasered? Something like this:

    In the year 2008, 600 people were diagnosed with excited delirium. 450 died from it, and of those 125 people were tasered. The remaining 325 deaths occurred in police custody. Of the 150 survivors 149 were in the custody of the police at the time of the incident, and the last victim was getting the shit beat out of him by six people in a back alley.

    All numbers pulled out of my ass.

    But somehow I doubt we'll see any kind of statistics like this.

    Also, I'm curious to know what kind of commonalities there are between the sufferers of excited delirium. Obviously it's some kind of disease or illness, so what kind of medications can you take to fight it? Are there any preventative measures, like diet? Or is the trick simply to avoid getting tasered or beaten up by the police?

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @06:11AM (#31855436)

    It was absolutely imperative that no sheep got hurt, or killed, during that test.

    Sheep might have gotten hurt and killed during another test.

    But Taser International certainly isn't going to tell us about that study.

  • by misexistentialist ( 1537887 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @07:41AM (#31855854)
    A gun isn't very good at subduing someone. If they run they know you won't shoot them. A gun might even make an officer more vulnerable to physical attack by tying up his hands when he has no justification to shoot an unarmed suspect. But in most cases the taser isn't used as a less-lethal substitute for a gun, but for the officer's hands. And hands are certainly less lethal than a taser.
  • by tophermeyer ( 1573841 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:34AM (#31856192)

    before lawenforcement et al had to reason "if I shoot, I have to make certain I'm in a situation where I have no other choice because I can kill this person". With tasering, the bounderies shifted "oh it can't harm, s/he is being annoying, lets buzz them like cattle into complying to the authority I impose."

    That's exactly why less lethal options like Tasers are attractive. It gives the police an option that falls somewhere between billy clubs and bullets. It means that even if someone is out of arms reach, they still have an option to take them down without killing them. And it drastically reduces the number of lethal force encounters.

    Your point though about shifting boundaries is spot on. All less lethal options need to come with proper training and accountability for those that abuse them.

  • by FeatherBoa ( 469218 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:38AM (#31856220)

    There is no question that conducted energy weapons are much safer than the weapon alternatives available to police. Gun-fired bean bags or even batons are much more likely to cause injury or even death than electric shock guns. The fine line here is that police are somehow mixing up the concept of "safer than a baton" with "no risk at all." Being struck by an energy weapon is not pleasant. If I were to go jolting random passers-by in the street, I would be charged with assault. Even that simple fact should be enough to cause police to think twice about using them. The fact that the RCMP had clearly decided to use their energy weapon before even seeing Robert Dziekanski, as Paul Pritchard's video makes plain [In the video, the sequence of conversation by the arriving RCMP is: "Are we going to user Tasers?" "Yes." "Where is he?"], tells us something unpleasant about their attitude towards the use of these things: they act as if there is absolutely no risk at all. But there is risk. People die from being shocked by these weapons.

    Taser International aggressively defends their weapon's safety record, influencing investigations [Taser v. Kohler, Ohio, 2006.11.7421] and conducting PR campaigns to promote their image as safe. They have a reason to defend their use. Fully 25% of Taser International's revenue comes from cartridges for their weapons. [Taser International 2007 annual report] Taser International has a strong incentive to see not only that their weapons are issued to law enforcement organizations, but also that those weapons are then used as often as possible. A quarter of their income comes from the cartridge that is used each time one of their weapons is fired at someone. The vendor will do what it can to encourage the use of the weapons and defend the safety and reliability record that justifies this use.

    Electric shock weapon proponents have gone so far as to invent a new hypothetical medical condition named "excited delirium" that is said to be the actual cause of death in cases where an electric shock weapon was used. The so called "thin skull" legal doctrine applies here though. This doctrine says that if a victim has an unusually susceptibility, such as a thin skull, this in no way diverts the blame from a blow to the head that causes injury. The fact that the injury might have been greater to the thin-skulled victim than to a "normal" person does not lessen the degree of fault with the blow -- or the electric shock.

    Suppose one in a thousand people were severely allergic to pepper spray, such that upon being sprayed those people would lapse into anaphylactic shock, and possibly die. Even though safe for the vast majority, this small risk of severe reaction and possible death would have to be taken into account by the police when using the stuff. We have this situation with electric shock weapons. Out of 1,000 normal looking folks walking the street, 3 of them will drop dead if you give them a jolt from one of these things. You may call it "excited delirium" if you want -- or call it thin skull. But if someone's alive before getting shocked and dead afterward, it is clear where the blame belongs.

    There is a small degree of danger in using these weapons, probably about the same level of danger as feeding a peanut butter sandwich to an elementary school kid. It's not enough to ban the use of the things by any stretch. But it should be enough to make the law enforcement forces much less cavalier about using them than they seem to be. There is a real risk in using these weapons and the police have to take that seriously.

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @08:44AM (#31856258) Journal

    I always found the idea of tasering and advertizing it as "oh, it can't hurt, it's just unpleasant" a bit boundary shifting: before lawenforcement et al had to reason "if I shoot, I have to make certain I'm in a situation where I have no other choice because I can kill this person". With tasering, the bounderies shifted "oh it can't harm, s/he is being annoying, lets buzz them like cattle into complying to the authority I impose."

    You are right about the boundary shifting, but you are wrong to make the comparison to firearms. Tasers are displacing the billy club, the use of which was more likely to lead to serious physical injury and/or death but which still represented a less than lethal step on the use of force continuum.

    Firearms represent deadly force, the use of which is typically reserved for situations where the life of an officer or third party is at risk. If you slug a police officer he can't (justifiably) shoot you. If you hit him over the head with a baseball bat and he's about to pass out he probably can. In scenario A his life isn't in danger. In scenario B it is.

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:22AM (#31856602) Homepage Journal

    No it isn't. A taser is a lot less lethal then a 9mm pistol.

    Tell that to someone who's died in police custody due to being tasered (or tasered excessively).

    Translation: Excited delerium MY ASS.

    Second, let's be straight about this. Pain-compliance via taser is TORTURE. Whether it hurts more, less, or about the same as being racked or pressed to death is IRRELEVANT. It's STILL torture. Waterboarding is relatively painless (physically), yet it's still illegal. Why is DELIBERATELY hurting someone (permanently or temporarily) acceptable here?

    Second, not when a taser discharge is NOW treated the same as other firearm discharges by police SOME forces.

    Fixed that for you. And the reason it's treated this way NOW, in SOME places is exactly BECAUSE of the excessive use and negative side effects have generated publicity.

    So a 9mm pistol or baton is going to be much better.

    No. The police doing their damn job without resorting to torture devices is better.

  • Why sheep? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:26AM (#31856648)

    Why not pigs. In general pigs are often used because their structure is much more like a human. Also they know stress much more like humans and can even die from that same stress. Oh, then perhaps people might not die from the tazering itself, but by the stress caused by repeated tazering.

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @09:58AM (#31857056)

    Not to mention the already almost-failing heart of a long time addict?

    Keep the sheep on meth for a year or so, then taser them and let's see how they fare.

  • The problem with the taser replacing the club is that when you hit somebody with a club, everybody knows if you hit hard enough, you can kill somebody, it also leaves bruises. The problem with the taser is that everybody knows 'the company that makes them says they are not lethal at all under any circumstance' and you can't see whether somebody's been hit with a taser. In the beginning of the taser-era, officers would call an ambulance before or after tasering somebody. These days it seems they don't even bother anymore (depending on the type of tasers they use).

    The taser has not been tested in any viable study I know off against either human targets or human replica's. As MythBusters and many electrical engineers will tell you, a shock across the heart of just 1mA can kill you, 100mA is lethal. As every geek knows I = V/R and tasers bolt out about 50-100kV which means your skin-to-heart resistance needs to put up a resistance of 500k (if my calculations are correct). Your body resistances ranges anywhere from 300ohms-6Mohms. When your skin is moist (sweating, ...) as is common with drug-addicts and people running from the law your body's resistance will drop. If a taser hits you near the heart in those conditions, they can be theoretically very lethal.

  • Cruelty to animals (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iwaybandit ( 1632765 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @12:12PM (#31858982)
    The sheep were sedated? Interesting. It tells me, that in their own view, tasering conscious sheep would be considered animal curelty. When techniques of animal cruelty are applied to humans, it's called torture or worse.
  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Thursday April 15, 2010 @01:43PM (#31860354)

    I've never been arrested, tasered, etc because I don't do stupid shit to provoke those outcomes.

    Or, alternatively, it is because you never came across a cop who doesn't like the way you look, is looking for someone else when he "finds" you, or is just a general asshole on a power trip. Congratulations, you got lucky. Or, in other words, just because you win the lottery doesn't mean that God loves you.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982