Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Wis. Professor to Test Stun Guns on Pigs - What an Idiot - Let's Stop This

We need to try to stop this sicko. Gee, stun guns hurt???

Wis. Professor to Test Stun Guns on Pigs

34 minutes ago

Top Stories - AP

By RYAN J. FOLEY, Associated Press Writer

MADISON, Wis. - A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison plans to
study whether stun guns alone can kill pigs — or whether other medical factors
must be at play — as part of an effort to understand why 70 people have died in
North America since 2001 after being shocked by Tasers.

Led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, outraged animal rights
activists are calling for an end to the two-year study by John Webster, a
professor emeritus of biomedical engineering.

Police hail stun guns as a nonlethal way to restrain unruly suspects. But
critics blame the weapons for dozens of deaths, and police departments are
reviewing how they use the devices, which shoot two small darts carrying about
50,000 volts of electricity to temporarily paralyze people.

Webster wants to test his hypothesis that Taser-related deaths were the result
of heart failure fueled by drug use and other medical factors, not electrocution
by the devices. To do so, researchers will begin in the next month studying how
Taser electrical currents flow through 150-pound pigs.

Of three groups of pigs in the study, one will be given cocaine, one will be
shocked with the devices, and one will be given both cocaine and electric
blasts. Some will be subjected to Webster's "SuperTaser," up to 30 times as
powerful as the model police use. All pigs will be on anesthesia so they won't
feel pain.

"If the hypothesis is correct that Tasers do not electrocute the heart, then why
are people dying in custody after they have been shot by Tasers? The people on
our team have hypotheses why that's true and we intend to answer that question,"
Webster said. "Our goal is to save lives."

Animal rights activists say the study, funded by a $500,000 U.S. Department of
Justice grant, is cruel and unnecessary. They plan protests on the UW-Madison
campus starting this week.

"Shocking more pigs is only going to add their numbers to the Taser-related
death statistics," Patti Gilman, whose brother died after being shot with a
Taser in British Columbia in June 2004, wrote in a letter to the school.
"Robert's death never should have happened. And neither should these experiments."

In a letter to PETA this month, UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said the study
could have a significant impact on the use of stun guns. He said researchers
have no other alternative than to use pigs, whose hearts are more like humans
than any other species.

In Wisconsin, the state Department of Justice convened an advisory committee to
create guidelines for police training and use of Tasers. On Tuesday, the
committee is scheduled to hold its first public hearing in Stevens Point, where
Webster will be among four presenters.

Webster said his research could lead to advice for how police should use the
devices, standards for how powerful stun guns can be, and instructions for
emergency room physicians on how to treat those who have been shocked.

Webster suggested some of the Taser-related deaths were from a rare condition
known as malignant hyperthermia, in which bodies essentially overheat. He will
test that theory on swine that have been specially bred to have the condition.

Other suspects may have died if potassium that is released into the blood stream
after muscle contractions caused by a Taser shock reached the heart, Webster
said. Cocaine use might be another factor, he said.

Webster's research is the first independent look at how Tasers affect pigs'
hearts. Research published in January sponsored by Taser International, the
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based maker of the devices, found that 15 times the charge
from ordinary stun guns was needed to electrocute the heart of even the smallest
pigs studied.

Taser said Webster is well-qualified to study the devices, which it says are
safe. The company says Tasers are being used by more than 7,000 law enforcement,
military and correctional agencies in the world.

"We welcome Professor Webster's research as it can provide continued independent
research concerning the safety of our life-saving Taser technology," said
company spokesman Steve Tuttle.

Taser research on animals dates to 1989, involving dogs, bulls and pigs, but
Webster's study is the only known such research now under way, according to PETA.

While all the pigs will be filled with anesthesia, they will be euthanized after
the experiments, said Webster, who predicted about 30 pigs would be used. The
research could create a computer model that would eliminate the need for more
animal testing, he said.

"I think this is an outstanding example of one of those questions that can only
be answered using animals," said Eric Sandgren, a UW-Madison professor who heads
a committee that oversees animal research. "Boy, there's been a lot of deaths
from this. If the alternative is to go back to using bullets, let's find out how
to make this safe."

That's a worthy goal, but researchers should instead study humans who have
survived Taser shocks and autopsy reports of those who died, said Laura Yanne of
PETA. She promised an "unprecedented" protest on Tuesday, but would not release

"Subjecting pigs to cruel experiments is not the way to go on this. It's so
obvious," she said. "This is a half-million dollar boondoggle."

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