Mission Statement - De-Spinning the Pro-Taser Propaganda

Yeah right, 'Excited Delirium' my ass...

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The primary purpose of this blog is to provide an outlet for my observations and analysis about tasers, taser "associated" deaths, and the behaviour exhibited by the management, employees and minions of Taser International. In general, everything is linked back to external sources, often via previous posts on the same topic, so that readers can fact-check to their heart's content. This blog was started in late-2007 when Canadians were enraged by the taser death of Robert Dziekanski and four others in a short three month period. The cocky attitude exhibited by the Taser International spokespuppet, and his preposterous proposal that Mr. Dziekanski coincidentally died of "excited delirium" at the time of his taser-death, led me to choose the blog name I did and provides my motivation. I have zero financial ties to this issue.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Air bags and air head

Taser Chairman Tom Smith compared tasers to automotive air bags. He claimed that it was okay that tasers claimed the occasionally life because air bags can also be lethal. [LINK]

First of all, I'd like to thank him for finally admitting that using a taser does sometimes result in a life lost.

Now - this comparison is an obvious non-starter.

Air bags try to save lives, but sometimes fail to save lives due to circumstance beyond their control (like crashing into a rock wall at 225 kmh for example). The malfunction rate for air bags is extremely low, certainly not as high as 1/70, it might be 1/million (a guess), certainly very rare. And I'm not aware of any significant design errors. There have been improvements over the years; but stupid design errors - next to none as far as I know. The associated dangers of air bags are well known and well documented. It's all written down, probably on your car's sunvisor.

Tasers try to lock-up a person's muscles without affecting any vital organs, but sometimes seem to fail to make this distinction due to... ??? Perhaps forgetting about Fourier? Double dipping into anatomical features? Over confidence? Hubris? And tasers are "perfectly safe" so long as you don't "fall down" and bang your head. The manufacturer strenuously denies any risk except secondary issues such as drowning or falling down. Nothing but denial.

To be clear, if tasers occasionally failed to perform and the victim was able to complete his suicide, or continued to attack the police and had to be shot, that sort of failure is unfortunate but forgivable. It is simply a QA and liability issue - such failures are not directly an ethical failure (unless the failure rate is too high). Taser could be forgiven for the occasional equipment failure. It isn't the main issue. It's the actively causing death that would be the issue.

But the failure rate does seem a bit high: "...tasers fail to work 20 per cent of the time. And even with optimal deployment -- when both darts hit the subject, ideally with a 36-inch probe spread -- one out of 10 times it won't cause the ideal five seconds of neuromuscular incapacitation." [LINK] Actual failure rate seems a bit high...

So, air bags not only have the advantage in the ratio of a failure causing death (next to zero), and also in the ratio of failing to prevent a death (quite low), but also in the ethical dimension (discussed previously).

This air bag comparison by air head is no comparison at all. It's not even a good analogy. And even if you stretch your mind to contemplate it, the taser comes in very poorly in any case.

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