Sunday, November 25, 2007

Excited Delirium

We are about to catch up and surpass the US in cases of excited delirium. What is excited delirium? Well the main psychiatric reference book doesn't recognise its existence. However the symptoms are extreme aggressiveness, almost superhuman strength, and most important resistance to arrest should police intervene. If police have really big problems restraining someone during arrest this may be because the person is suffering excited delirium and thus according to recent RCMP manuals they can taser the person not just once but multiple times. If the person dies as a result the death will likely not be because of the tasering but because of excited delirium. This is a win win conclusion. The cops get to control people without hurting themselves and Taser Inc. and the cops get to win any lawsuits because death is not due to tasering. With animals we have a tranquilizer dart. Instead of developing one for humans apparently we prefer a weapon that is used by numerous countries as an instrument of torture.

The following quote is from this site.

The chief psychiatric reference book, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, does not specifically recognize "excited delirium" as a diagnosis. The International Association of Chiefs of Police says not enough is known about it.

"It is not a recognized medical or psychiatric condition," said spokeswoman Wendy Balazik. "That is why we don't use it and have not taken a position on it."

Never mind the Psychiatric establishment does not recognise. THe police are given
study sessions on it as this NPR piece points out.

Excited delirium has helped Taser International in the past. In recent years, the company has successfully defended itself against at least eight lawsuits involving people who died in police custody, arguing that the cause of death was excited delirium, not the Taser.

Taser International spokesman Steve Tuttle acknowledges that each year, his company sends hundreds of pamphlets to medical examiners explaining how to detect excited delirium. Taser also holds seminars across the country, which hundreds of law-enforcement officials attend. But Tuttle says his company is only providing information that has been vetted by researchers.

"We're not telling departments [that] excited delirium is always the cause of death following a Taser application," Tuttle said. "We're simply pointing out the facts: that excited delirium is an issue out there, and they need to treat this as a medical emergency if they see these signs."

Taser is also reaching out to the medical community.

John Peters is president of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, a prominent consulting company in Henderson, Nev. His firm specializes in training law-enforcement officers, coroners, emergency-room physicians and others in the medical community about sudden death from excited delirium.

A Conflict of Interest?

Peters is also one of Taser International's star witnesses against claims that the weapon kills people. He and his staff were paid by Taser for a year and a half to instruct at the company's training academy.

Peters says that training law enforcement to embrace excited delirium does not affect his impartiality on the stand.

"Some people would say, 'Well, obviously you're on their side,'" Peters said. "But the Taser is just one piece of this. I'm not a Taser instructor. I don't hold stock in Taser. So we try to maintain a distance or separation."

But Eric Balaban, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, worries that the messages police receive about excited delirium may actually exacerbate confrontations with people in custody.

"If police officers are being trained about this condition known as excited delirium, and are being told the people suffering from it have superhuman strength, and [these people] are being treated as if they are somehow not human, it can lead officers to escalate situations," he said.

Balaban says the fear is not just that excited delirium may not exist, but that it is already being overused — in lawsuits and on the streets.

Related NPR Stories
Nov. 12, 2005

No comments: