Monday, January 7, 2008

Tasered? Dead? Must be Excited Delirium- yeah, that's the ticket.

taser excited delirium deathNews reports of post-tasering deaths sometimes claim that victims die not from the taser shot but from “Excited Delirium.” The term appears in today's article in the Columbus Dispatch describing the December, 2006 post-taser death of Briant Parks at the hands of three officers, one of whom tasered him twice. Another tasered him eight times for a period of 45 seconds. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system. He's dead.

Don't fret, the cops are OK- the police take care of their own. An investigation by the division's critical-incident response team, made up of veteran homicide detectives, found that the officers acted within division policy. Thank goodness for carefully written policies. Amazingly, a Franklin County grand jury cleared them of criminal wrongdoing.

Excited delirium is not a medical or psychological diagnosis. It's a catch-all invented by cops, coroners, and taser salesmen to refer to the state you're in when you've been terrified, chased, tackled, beat up, sat on, pepper-sprayed and/or electroshocked and die in police custody.

Both NPR and Wikipedia report this statement by Eric Balaban of the American Civil Liberties Union: "I know of no reputable medical organization — certainly not the AMA [American Medical Association] or the APA [American Psychological Association] — that recognizes excited delirium as a medical or mental-health condition." He's right. It's not recognized by professional medical associations, and you won't find it listed in the chief psychiatric reference book. Balaban charges that police use the diagnosis "as a means of white-washing what may be excessive use of force and inappropriate use of control techniques by officers during an arrest."

Excited delirium can't be found in an autopsy. It's solely an operational definition- it's the name for what you die from if you die after you've been electroshocked into submission. If there are no witnesses, only the police can describe what happened, and civil liberties groups fear the diagnosis is used to cover up police abuse and keep lawsuits from cutting into taser manufacturer's profits.

What's the moral of this story? Next time a gang of thug cops run you down and taser you over and over, remain calm. Take deep, slow breaths. Go to your Happy Place. Chant your mantra. Don't get excited, don't get delirious- you might kill yourself despite the peace officers' best efforts on your behalf.

Oh- and here's a link so I can check to see that Haloscan trackbacks work. Good site tho, LOL.