Police use of a Taser 'contributing factor' in Ontario man's death, jury finds - Macleans.ca

Police use of a Taser ‘contributing factor’ in Ontario man’s death, jury finds


MIDHURST, Ont. – A coroner’s jury found Tuesday that the use of a Taser was a contributing factor in the accidental death of a 27-year-old Ontario man at the hands of police.

Aron Firman’s death in June 2010 has been called an “index case” by Ontario’s top pathologist, who has testified that the stun gun was a key factor in the fatality.

The jury found the cause of death was cardiac arrhythmia due to a state of excited delirium and schizophrenia.

Firman’s father, Marcus Firman, said he was “disappointed” with the finding, saying he believes the Taser triggered the heart condition that proved fatal for his son.

But he welcomed the clear link between the stun gun and his son’s death in light of what he called weeks of contradictory evidence on the matter.

“Obviously the science is unclear,” he said after the inquest concluded.

The panel also made a number of recommendations aimed at preventing such deaths in the future, including that police officers should call paramedics and begin CPR immediately when someone becomes unresponsive after being struck with a Taser.

Current procedures require that officers first check for a pulse.

A lawyer representing Taser International has suggested Firman could have died from cardiac arrhythmia brought on by “excited delirium” — a condition sometimes cited as a cause of death in people using cocaine or those with severe mental illness.

Presiding coroner William Lucas warned the five-member jury panel on Friday not to resort to an “undetermined” cause of death as a matter of convenience.

Firman, who suffered from schizophrenia, died after an encounter with Ontario Provincial Police in Collingwood, Ont.

The inquest has heard vastly different testimony from experts. Some have suggested the use of a Taser on Firman was a key factor in his death, while others argued the stun gun had little to do with the fatality.

Ontario’s police watchdog cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, but also said the Taser’s deployment caused Firman’s death.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version erroneously said the jury found the use of the Taser was an ‘aggravating factor’ in Firman’s death.

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Police use of a Taser ‘contributing factor’ in Ontario man’s death, jury finds

  1. If Tasers are as safe as the police and Taser International say they are why can’t the Canadian public carry them?

    • We can’t carry pepper spray either. Someone I know was in the Edmonton police department and before getting their taser, each officer has to be “tased’ so they will appreciate how much it hurts. I don’t think anyone is saying these tasers are harmless but I think they are saying they are better than shooting someone with a gun. When it comes to psychiatric patients, I would prefer they use no force and certainly, no tasers. That would mean however, that they might need 6 police officers to respond to one these calls and I am not sure if they have that kind of manpower. Further, it is still possible that the person might go into cardiac arrest related to their delirium and high state of agitation.

      • Bear spray is pepper spray. Call a Taser a Fazer if that’s all it takes. I always did wonder why lethal weapons are easy to get while non lethal weapons are restricted.

      • Clearly today’s police are not sufficiently trained in dealing with agitated people. There were four police officers present in Vancouver when the non-English speaking Dziekanski was tasered to death – so it is not a manpower issue. There is a certain “us vs them” mentality that kicks in with these kind of situations. All would be cops should study the Stanford Prison Experiment, and then be screened or at least re-educated if they can’t cope with the implications for their own behavior.

        • In Calgary they did try a program where a psychiatric nurse rode with two police officers to calls that involved patients with mental illness. The problem in some cases is that patients are confused and afraid and cannot be talked down. We encounter the same thing on the psychiatric units and in the ER. Yes, you need special training but sometimes the patients are so agitated that you need to use physical means to subdue them. On the unit, we also have the ability to use medication and soft restraints. Things are different on the street as you don’t have those options. At the same time what is always in the minds of staff is avoiding getting hurt yourself…ie: your back, losing your teeth, etc. People who work in these industries regularly get assaulted on the job.

  2. The jury seems to have been overly impressed by Taser’s well-practiced lawyers. “Excited delirium” is not a recognized medical condition, and it’s worth noting that it only gets blamed for deaths at the hands of police officers and never in other contexts. I’m not saying the officers were at fault here, as I’m not in possession of all the facts, but I find it disturbing that this imaginary syndrome continues to be wheeled out “as a matter of convenience”, to use the coroner’s words, whenever someone has died unexpectedly while being taken down.

    • Your information is not accurate. Excited delirium is a condition and if you google you will see that is true. It is also something as a psychiatric nurse of 18 years that I have seen WITHOUT any tasers present. Luckily when you are within a hospital with an emergency department, when a patient goes into a cardiac arrest related to this condition, you have a code team that can revive them. In the instances I myself am familiar with, bursts of adrenaline were involved (strong emotional response/strong flight response) within seconds prior to the cardiac arrest occurring.

        • Well, it is discussed by the cbc and wikipedia as a medical condition although it does not exist in the DSM. However, Aspergers no longer exists in the DSM either. What does exist in the DSM is “delirium” and even those sticklers who will say “excited delirium” doesn’t exist will admit that an ‘agitated delirium” has been observed to occur in patients with manic symptoms since the 1800’s. It was also observed to occur in patients that came into ER’s after using cocaine…long before the use of tasers. Again the patients were agitated; confused; sweating; combative and then they went into cardiac arrest.