If you are shocked by a Taser could you be too stunned to respond to a police officer’s orders? Would you really understand your Miranda rights?
An estimated 16,000 American police departments use “conductive energy devices”, popularly referred to as “stun guns”. Robert Kane, professor and director of Drexel University’s Drexel Criminal Justice Program along with three researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) wanted to know if 50,000 volt electric shock from a Taser would impair the recipient’s ability to reason.
As described in the University’s online EXCELmagazine.org, a small article in The Philadelphia News in 2010 caught the attention of Professor Kane. It recounted how a 56 year old grandfather, acting erratically and holding a knife, was repeatedly shocked by a stun gun and then shot and killed by police officers after he failed to put down his weapon and “charged” the police officer. According to one witness, the man seemed unable to respond to orders before he was shot.
Professor Kane and the three ASU researchers; co-principal investigator, assistant professor Justin Ready and graduate student Lisa Dario designed the first controlled test to determine the cognitive effects of a Taser Shock.
Kane and his colleagues wanted to know if you are exposed to a Taser and the cops arrest you, 10 or 15 minutes later do you have the cognitive ability to wave your rights under the Miranda Law?
The researchers recruited 142 ASU students, half of which received a Taser shock and half didn’t. All the students were then given memory tests. Those who were Tasered had decreased cognitive ability, especially memory recall, than those who had not been Tasered. Some who were shocked tested at levels that could be classified as “dementia.” After an hour, the effects of Tasering seemed to wear off.
Similar memory effects have been reported with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), often called Shock Treatment. ECT which causes a seizure-inducing electrical shock, can lift depression—although no one knows exactly why.
“It reboots the system,” believes Gary Kennedy, MD, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. It is like turning a computer off and when it comes back on they are not as depressed.
One of the most common side effects of the therapeutic shock treatment, however, is memory loss. Right after a seizure occurs from ECT some patients experience short-term confusion. Memory loss usually covers events that took place shortly before the treatment, and for most people the problem doesn’t continue for more than a few days. However, some people report memory loss lasting several weeks after the treatment, and older patients may be more likely to have “confusion” that lasts for up to a few weeks, Dr. Kennedy says