Parents hope son's death after being Tasered will be 'catalyst' for change

MIDHURST, Ont. – The parents of a mentally ill Ontario man who died after being Tasered by police three years ago have told a coroner’s inquest they hope their son’s death will be a catalyst for change.

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

Doreen and Marcus Firman, who took the stand as the inquest’s final witnesses, both struggled to control their emotions as they told a five-member jury about the aching void their son’s death has created in their lives.

Marcus Firman says the man described during the course of the inquest was not the son he knew.

He calls his son as a gentle, artistic and inquisitive 27-year-old who was keenly aware of his “terrible illness.”

He says he hopes the inquest will result in a vision on how to deal with mental illness.

The lawyer for the Firman family is suggesting the jury find Aron Firman’s death an accidental one in which the Taser was an important factor.

“If you find that the Taser was related in that death…the world will not end,” Sunil Mathai told the jury.

“The family is not going to make recommendations that Tasers be removed. The family takes the position that Tasers have proper place in policing.”

Firman, a man with schizophrenia, died in June 2010 after an encounter with Ontario Provincial Police in Collingwood, Ont.

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

Taser International has argued Firman could have died due to “excited delirium” — a condition sometimes cited as a cause of death in people using cocaine or those with severe mental illness.

Firman’s family has maintained that if the Taser hadn’t been used, the 27-year-old wouldn’t have died.

The family is hoping the inquest will lead to better guidelines around the use of Tasers by authorities and improved response techniques when police have to deal with agitated mentally ill people.

The inquest’s jurors, who have heard testimony from several witnesses intermittently since April, will adjourn later today to decide on their recommendations.