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Prehosp Emerg Care. 2006 Oct-Dec;10(4):447-50.

Taser use in restraint-related deaths.

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Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.



The Taser is an electric weapon capable of releasing significant amounts of electricity in rapid pulses, causing uncontrollable muscle contraction. Use of this weapon has dramatically increased over the past decade, and it is now commonly used by law enforcement officers nationwide. Emergency medical services providers are, likewise, seeing more patients who have recently been subjected to application of a Taser. We examined the autopsy reports of patients who died after application of a Taser in an attempt to identify high-risk interactions.


This is a case series of Taser-related deaths. Fatalities occurring over four years beginning in January 2001 were identified through an Internet search, and autopsy reports were requested. Reports were analyzed for patient demographics, preexisting cardiac disease, toxicology, evidence of excited delirium, restraint techniques used, and listed cause of death.


Of 75 cases identified, 37 (49.3%) had autopsy reports available for review. All cases involved men, with ages ranging from 18 to 50 years. Cardiovascular disease was found in 54.1%. Illegal substance use was found on toxicology screening for 78.4%; within that group, 86.2% were found to have been using stimulants. A diagnosis of excited delirium was given for 75.7% of the cases. Use of a Taser was considered a potential or contributory cause of death in 27%.


This is the largest review of Taser-related fatalities reported in the medical literature. The findings are consistent with prior studies, suggesting a high frequency of restraint-related and excited delirium-related fatalities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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