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Exclusive Online Content - ACEP Scientific Assembly: Oct. 6, 2009

TASERs: Fact or Fiction

Nystrom, Paul MD

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/

    Most readers' knowledge of conducted electrical weapons, commonly called TASERs, likely comes from the evening news, a newspaper, or an Internet search. In a world of sound bites such as, “Don't tase me, bro,” the world watches on the Internet, and laughs without ever understanding what a conducted electrical weapon (CEW) actually is, what it does, or why it is used. The complicated circumstances surrounding its use remain unexplained, and only bad outcomes make the news. The many uses of CEWs that prevented further harm or saved a life don't show up on YouTube.

    In this book, Dr. Kroll, an electrical engineer at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Ho, an emergency physician at Hennepin County Medical Center, lay out the facts regarding CEWs and tell readers exactly what they can and cannot do. The authors have compiled the definitive work on CEWs, drawing on their own extensive research as well as that of numerous experts. They present the material in a simple format that makes understanding CEWs finally possible. From questions about electricity and the details of echocardiography to excited delirium and exercises in case law, this book covers it all.

    The authors start with the history of CEWs and the use of nonlethal force and walk the reader through virtually all the studies and knowledge to date on CEWs. The cornerstone of the book is the discussion of the side effects of CEWs. Using the work of more than 50 contributing authors, all experts in their respective fields, Drs. Kroll and Ho provide a thorough explanation of the physics, physiology, medicine, and pathology behind CEWs.

    Each chapter contains an extensive bibliography citing the best and most recent research regarding CEWs. Whether you are an EMS provider, a law enforcement officer, a lawyer, a physician, a citizen who owns a CEW, or someone who just wants to know the truth, this book explains the facts. It is a must-read for anyone who has contact with CEWs. As an emergency physician, there are numerous chapters I will undoubtedly read again.

    Another crucial discussion is one on the intersection of law enforcement and the public, particularly those who require restraint for the safety of themselves or others. The evidence speaks for itself in the decreased number of injuries when CEWs are used. Unfortunate outcomes will continue to occur, but as the authors explain, it is a deadly mix of circumstances not related to CEWs that cause these events.


    Drs. Kroll and Ho did an outstanding job of combining the basics of CEWs with the intricate details without making the book unusually complicated. Whether you don't know anything about CEWs, know a little bit, or know a lot, this book has facts and answers to many of the common questions surrounding CEWs as well as specialized information for the reader who wants to know the nuanced details.

    The next time the evening news reports an incident involving a CEW, you'll know whether what you're hearing is fact or fiction.

    © 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.