Under most conditions, TASERs are non-lethal. Sometimes, however, they’re not. If the TASEee has “excited delirium syndrome” the result can be fatal. So how do first (or second or third) responders know if the citizen they’re attempting to restrain is bat-shit crazy or suffering from excited delirium syndrome or even if there’s a difference between the two? “If you have a crazy person running around naked in the street, you should be thinking about excited delirium, unless you’re at a carnival in Brazil,” Dr. Peter Antevy tells officer.com. The medical director for Davie (Fla.) Fire-Rescue Department’s put together a Powerpoint prez on ED (not that ED). It’s edutainment at it’s best. (You’ve got to register but it’s worth it.) For the chronologically challenged, make the jump to learn why cops occasionally TASE ED suffers to death . . .
While the number of people with excited delirium who die in custody has diminished, there are many reasons why they do, Antevy said. One of the principal reason is they can’t breathe, he said. Because they are overheated, sometimes reaching temperatures up to 107 degrees, and they are no longer sweating because of dehydration and other conditions, the only way left for people to try to cool their bodies is to breath rapidly, tachypnea, which is almost like panting, he said.
When excited delirium patients are “hogtied” and restrained in a prone position, they can’t breathe as effectively as their bodies need, Antevy said. It is far better to sedate the patient with drugs, including any of the Benzodiazephine family, including valium, Versed and Ativan, or a new one that’s gaining popularity, ketamine. Haldon might also be used, but it has effects that will need close monitoring and might hinder the patient’s natural ability to compensate, Antevy said.
And the answer is . . .
Instead of answering the agitation with force, such as hog ties and physical struggling, sedation is the answer when possible, Antevy said, noting that while many police officers might recognize the physiology of the emergency, they have to take the necessary steps to protect themselves and the public. That might include physical restraints and even use of a Taser on the patient/suspect.
“They want to get home to their families and I can understand that,” Antevy said. The more EMS and police work together, and are educated about the signs and symptoms, the more likely a patient will experience a good outcome, he said.
Likely but not certain. Meanwhile, think of all the lives saved by TASERs. Of all the suspects and perps and whackos the cops didn’t shoot with an actual gun. Just sayin’ . . .