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Chicago teen went into cardiac arrest due to Taser, doctors claim

EarthTimes | September 5, 2005
By Sunil Vyas

CHICAGO - A letter published yesterday in The New England Journal of Medicine has claimed that a 14-yer-old boy went into ventricular fibrillation after a Taser Gun shocked him. This is the first medically documented report linking the use of the stun gun to fatal fibrillation.

Two doctors at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago penned this letter. The doctors wrote that an adolescent who was subdued by the Taser collapsed soon afterwards, "Paramedics found the adolescent to be in ventricular fibrillation and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation within two minutes after the collapse. After four shocks and the administration of epinephrine, atropine, and lidocaine, a perfusing rhythm was restored. The adolescent made a nearly complete recovery and was discharged from the hospital several days later," the doctors wrote in the letter. Paul J. Kim, M.D., and Wayne H. Franklin, M.D also sent the electrocardiogram tracings of the victim along with their letter, showing the condition of the heart before and after defibrillation.

In response, Taser International, the company that makes and markets the stun guns said that ventricular fibrillation could not have been caused because of the gun. The company cites a letter written by Dr. Richard M. Luceri, director of the Arrhythmia Center at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, which claims that the authors have only speculated, "The conclusion implied by the authors is purely speculative and not backed by scientific evidence," Luceri wrote.

But Dr. Wayne H. Franklin, one of the co-authors of the letter in the NEJM said that no other condition could have caused the fibrillation in the boy, "I don't know of anything else that could have put him into ventricular fibrillation,'' Franklin said. In an interview he says that chances of fibrillation are maximum with Tasers and advises police to carry defibrillation kits with them. "I don't know why it happens to one person and why it doesn't happen to another. Not everyone who gets hit by lightning dies, either," he said when asked why the boy had not succumbed to the ensuing cardiac arrest.

This new report once again brings the focus onto the Taser guns, which are used by law enforcement agencies to immobilize suspects who are trying to get away. Tasers shoot up to 50,000 volts of electricity, a quantity that could prove fatal, though it has not been proved conclusively so far.

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