Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's Up Doc?

Sometimes, when I read about deaths that follow tasing, I can't believe I'm not reading the Onion. This story is too much (emphasis mine):

A Red Deer man who was shocked three times with a Taser did not die as a result of the weapon, but partly because of a pre-existing heart condition, a fatality inquiry heard Monday.

Jason Doan, 28, was also in a state of "excited delirium"when RCMP officers found him smashing vehicle windows on Aug. 10, 2006.

It was the combination of these two factors that contributed to his death from cardiac arrest and not the shocks from the Taser, said Dr. Sam Andrews, who performed the autopsy, on the opening day of the nine-day hearing.

But the doctor also testified he could not determine from the autopsy that Doan was in a state of excited delirium at the time of the incident, only that he made that assumption based on the RCMP's report of how Doan was acting that day.

Doan was allegedly smashing vehicle windows in an alley when officers were called to respond.

After a chase, an officer shocked him with the Taser to subdue him. Doan went into a coma and was in hospital for three weeks before he died. In previous reports, witnesses said they saw the man using the handle of a pitchfork to attack one of the officers before the Taser was used on him.

People in a state of "excited delirium" --a brain chemical imbalance--often exhibit violent behaviour, superhuman strength and higher levels of pain tolerance. It can be exacerbated by drugs, alcohol or mental illness.

Andrews testified toxicology reports indicated there were no drugs or alcohol in Doan's system and that he had no psychiatric history.

For more on the dubious condition called "excited delirium," see here (or scroll through these posts for a real learning experience). The Wikipedia entry for the term is here.

I'm sure we'll hear similar logic-defying arguments in the latest taser-proximal death (or here) in MN:

As the officers tried to arrest him, Smith struggled and was shot with a Taser, Palmer said. Shortly after Smith was subdued, he had a medical problem and paramedics were called, Palmer said.

Smith was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he died.

There's that sequence again: suspect tased, suspect dies.