"A judge ruled today that the Summit County Medical Examiner must change her autopsy findings to remove all references to the Taser stun gun as a contributing cause of death in the cases of three men who died during encounters with law enforcement officers.
The decision by visiting Judge Ted Schneiderman, released late this morning after a four-day trial in Common Pleas Court last week, stated that there is ''simply no medical, scientific or electrical evidence to support the conclusion that the Taser . . . had anything to do with the death of Dennis S. Hyde, Richard Holcomb, or Mark D. McCullaugh.''
Schneiderman, quoting passages from [medical examiner, Dr. Lisa J.]Kohler's autopsy report on McCullaugh, stated that his death ''shall be ruled undetermined and any reference to death by 'asphyxia due to the combined effects of chemical, mechanical and electrical restraint,' as well as any reference to 'homicide' due to 'multiple restraint mechanisms with beating and anal penetration' shall be deleted from both the death certificate and the Report of Autopsy.''
"Lawyers for Taser, relying on a ''multiple number of experts . . . in the area of sudden and unexpected death while law enforcement attempted to obtain custody provided overwhelming credible medical and scientific evidence to support their positions,'' Schneiderman's ruling stated."
Dr Stanbrook at the Canadian Medical Association Journal, however, deigns to disagree.
From Tasers in medicine - an irreverent call for proposals : (pdf, sorry)
"In this issue, we call your attention to an emerging and increasingly popular medical device: the taser. It may strike you as odd to hear tasers described as medical devices. Tasers are probably more familiar to you, depending on your point of view, as a valuable tool for subduing criminals and
safeguarding the lives of law enforcement personnel, or, alternatively, as a potentially lethal weapon being deployed with wanton disregard for public safety. The latter perspective has possibly been inflicted on society by the media, which has an annoying habit of publicizing when someone dies after being exposed to a taser discharge."
Noting TASER™'s litigious nature and propensity for using researchers who "occasionally neglect to mention their participation on TASER International’s medical advisory board or board of directors" in "suing a researcher for publishing scientific results critical of tasers in a peer-reviewed journal and a medical examiner for the “error” of listing taser exposure on a death certificate as the cause of death", Matthew B. Stanbrook MD PhD, Deputy Editor, Scientific, CMAJ, writes :
"Only cynics would observe that tasers nevertheless appear to be the leading risk factor associated with sudden death due to excited delirium"
"Obviously, no one is better suited to instruct a qualified physician, coroner or specialist in forensic pathology on how to determine the cause of death than advisors to a corporation with a vested interest in the device being critiqued."
The Vancouver coroner's investigation into the death of Robert Dziekanski should be starting any day now.
I do hope the delightfully sardonic Dr Stanbrook is invited.