Lim EC, Seet RC. Taser usage and neurological sequelae

Raymond Chee-Seong Seet, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Division of Neurology, National University Hospital, Singapore, Singapore.
Journal of Emergency Medicine (Impact Factor: 0.97). 07/2008; 37(2):170-1. DOI: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.11.085
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    • "The impact of the TASER on the brain has not been sufficiently investigated. Despite the low level of energy generated by the TASER (approximately 0.08 J), questions have emerged regarding the potential effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning, as well as how the device may affect the brain (Lim & Seet, 2009; U.S. v. Mack, No. 07-238 2009; U.S. v. Chancellor, S.D. Fla 2008). Some researchers have questioned why 'neurological sequelae have not been more frequently reported', concluding that 'the potential for permanent neurological damage is a cause for concern, considering the widespread use of the TASER' ( "
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    ABSTRACT: Individuals who experience electrical injury suffer significant, sometimes long-term deficits in neuropsychological functioning. The TASER, an electrical device used by thousands of police departments, generates a high-voltage (up to 50 000 V), low-amperage (2.1 mA) current of electricity that is designed to disable a resistive criminal suspect. Questions have emerged regarding the potential for TASER exposure to cause impairment in cognitive functioning. In the current study, healthy human volunteers were randomly assigned to four groups, two of which received a TASER exposure. Participants completed a battery of cognitive tests before and after receiving their assigned treatment. Participants who received a TASER exposure experienced statistically meaningful declines in measures of verbal learning and memory, although deficits lasted less than 1 hour. After TASER exposure, participants also self-reported significant difficulties with concentration, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed. Other dimensions of cognitive functioning were not affected. Our findings show that the effects of TASER exposure on brain functioning are not well understood. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Applied Cognitive Psychology 04/2015; DOI:10.1002/acp.3128 · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    • "To date, no identified study has empirically examined whether the TASER may cause changes in cognitive functioning. Given the emersion of the TASER in policing, the absence of research in this area is troubling (Lim and Seet 2009). This knowledge gap raises serious concerns for the questioning of suspects who have received a TASER exposure, as it is unclear if the device affects a person's ability to voluntarily, knowingly , and intelligently waive their Miranda rights. "
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives Despite its widespread adoption by more than two-thirds of police departments in the US, there has not been a single study examining the effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning. This inquiry is important for two reasons. First, research has consistently documented cognitive deficits following exposure to electricity (the TASER is an electrical device). Second, questions have emerged regarding whether TASER exposure impairs suspects’ ability to understand and waive their Miranda rights. Methods To explore this issue, the authors carried out a pilot study with 21 police recruits who received a TASER exposure as part of their training at the San Bernardino County (CA) Training Center. Each recruit was given a battery of cognitive tests 3–4 h before TASER exposure, within 5 min after exposure, and again 24 h after exposure. Results Recruits experienced statistically significant reductions in several measures of cognitive functioning following TASER exposure. However, all recruits had returned to their baseline levels of functioning within 24 h. Learning effects were documented in several of the cognitive tests. Conclusions The questions driving this study involve serious issues including constitutionally protected rights of the accused, use of force by police, and previously unexamined effects of the TASER on the human body. The pilot study represents a critical first step in exploring the effects of the TASER on cognitive functioning. Moreover, the results provided the authors with important information that will guide their larger study, a randomized controlled trial where healthy human volunteers will be randomly assigned to four groups, two of which receive a TASER exposure.
    Journal of Experimental Criminology 09/2014; 10(3):267-290. DOI:10.1007/s11292-013-9197-9 · 1.17 Impact Factor
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    • "The Amnesty International report and the media attention to the case of Robert Dziekanski and others represent the public face of the debate about Taser safety, but medical literature also reports a number of adverse effects (Denham & Mallon, 1999; Lim & Seet, 2007; Sanford, Jacobs, Roe, & Terndrup, 2011; Strote & Hutson, 2006). Although Tasers are reported to be safe in healthy individuals (Bleetman, Steyn, & Lee, 2004), other researchers have concluded that " While less lethal weapons are significantly safer than traditional firearms, no weapon can be entirely non-lethal and no weapon can be made entirely safe. "
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    ABSTRACT: The proliferation of Tasers among police forces internationally has been accompanied by concerns about injuries and health effects, and about the use of Tasers on vulnerable populations such as people with mental illness. Tasers have generated a flood of research studies, although there remain unanswered questions about some of the key issues. This paper outlines the introduction of Tasers to policing and their subsequent widespread adoption. The paper considers the role of police in mental health emergencies with a particular focus on use of Tasers. Some factors contribute to the special vulnerability of people with mental illness to the effects of Tasers. The paper also reviews research into use of Tasers and raises issues about conflict of interest in Taser research. We conclude that Tasers look set to play a significant role in policing in the future. We make suggestions for a future research programme, and suggest guidelines for publication of papers in which there may be a conflict of interest.
    International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 07/2014; 37(4). DOI:10.1016/j.ijlp.2014.02.014 · 1.19 Impact Factor
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