Tasers Safe? New Study Sparks More Debate

A new study suggests Tasers pose little health risk to those who are shocked.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 11:17 AM

Oct. 8, 2007— -- A new study suggesting Tasers pose little risk to those receiving the shocks has sparked further debate over their safety.

The research, which was presented at the American College of Emergency Physicians' Research forum in Seattle, arrives amid a number of high-profile reports of police incidents involving Tasers in recent weeks.

Lead study investigator Dr. William Bozeman, an emergency medicine specialist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., emphasizes that, when used in appropriate situations, Tasers are much better than alternative means.

"This is the first real-world application study regarding the injury incurred by these weapons, because previous studies have encompassed either human volunteers or animals," he says.

In his research of 597 past situations in which Tasers were used by police officers, Bozeman found that serious injuries were rare, occurring only 0.3 percent of the time.

Bozeman adds that he was anticipating a higher level of injury -- injuries that might require hospital admission or incur long-term disability.

Dr. Gary Vilke, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California at San Diego agrees with the findings.

"Research with police officers shows only minor injuries, such as those related to muscle contractions, no electrical injuries and one vertebral injury," he says. "I do not see any future problems."

But Dr. Corey Slovis, professor and chairman of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University, says other recent research suggests that the weapons may be dangerous for some.

"I think that Tasers in normal subjects are safe," he says, "but I am concerned that emerging evidence may show that they may change the underlying heart rhythm of individuals who do not have a normal conduction system -- such as those using cocaine, those who are dehydrated, agitated, hypoxic or those taking anti-psychotics."