Cops and Guards Getting Away With Murder (Taser Edition)
This piece originally appeared at The Guardian.
“Excited delirium” might sound like a medical condition, but it’s not recognized by the American Medical Association. Nor will you find it in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the preeminent text for diagnosing mental illness. Yet the so-called condition, in which a person allegedly becomes uncontrollably and fatally manic, has been used as a pseudoscientific smokescreen to protect those who tase people to death, as well as the manufacturers of Tasers, from prosecution.
Taser International, the leading manufacturer of stun guns, has latched onto excited delirium, an ill-defined concept that two medical examiners applied in the 1980s as the cause of death for three dozen women in South Florida. The notion was debunked, the deaths explained as asphyxiation after the bodies were exhumed and properly autopsied. Nevertheless, its proponents have an elaborate explanation for how excited delirium can strike: a sudden and enormous dump of adrenaline sends a person into extreme psychosis, which overstresses the body and causes death.
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