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Medical Panel Issues Interim Findings on Stun Gun Safety

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 261 Dated: October 2008 Pages: 20-23
Date Published
October 2008
4 pages

This paper presents the interim findings and recommendations of a medical panel convened under the sponsorship of the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to address issues regarding the safety and effectiveness of conducted-energy devices (CEDs), also known as stun guns or the trade name Taser.


Based on findings from an independent research program sponsored by NIJ, the medical panel concluded in its interim report that CEDs do not directly cause death in cases of excited delirium, although preliminary data from physiological studies suggest that CEDs may increase the risk of sudden death in cases of excited delirium. The medical panel determined that people in excited delirium are at high risk of death even if they do not encounter a police officer or have a CED or other weapons used against them. These individuals must be calmed and their body temperature reduced as soon as possible in order to avoid sudden death. The panel noted, however, that at the present time, many questions about the safety of CEDs cannot be answered based on current research, especially regarding at-risk individuals. Still, the panel determined that there is no conclusive medical evidence to indicate a high risk of serious injury or death from the direct effects of CED exposure. Therefore, it advises that law enforcement agencies need not refrain from using CEDs provided the devices are used in accordance with accepted national guidelines. The panel's interim recommendations focus on postevent medical care and investigation of in-custody deaths. The panel reviewed the full range of current scientific research and a number of CED-associated deaths; and it held substantive discussions with industry, academia, and community advocates. 11 notes

Date Published: October 1, 2008