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Are Forced Injections the New Taser?

By: Gerri L. Elder

While most people are aware of police use of Taser weapons, many may be fairly shocked to learn of an alternate method used by police in Nashville, Tennessee to subdue “unruly” people. The city has a policy allowing police to inject unruly people that they encounter on the street with a strong sedative.

One of the doctors responsible for this bright idea claims that it is the safest option available and that it is being used all over the country. However, a top medical ethicist says that it is troubling.

The drug used by police is Midazolam, which is better known as Versed. This drug is commonly used with patients undergoing a colonoscopy. It has an amnesia side effect, according to biomedical ethics and law enforcement expert Dr. Steven Miles.

While the use of the drug is safe for patients who have been screened and had their medical histories reviewed, its use on the street is a bit alarming.

One of the first people to receive a shot of Versed courtesy of the Nashville Police, Dameon Beasley, admits that he was off his medication and out of control at the time. He was shot with a police Taser gun and then officers called for emergency medical personnel to give him the injection. Police held him down while he was given the shot. He described the effect of the injection as immediate and like a “horse tranquilizer,” according to a WSMV News report.

When he woke up, Beasley had no idea what had happened to him or how much time had passed. He says that as he came to he saw a sergeant standing over him telling him to sign a paper. He says that he signed the paper without knowing what he was signing. As a result, Beasley ended up in psychiatric care at the hospital. His criminal defense attorney says that he had no idea that he had been injected with Versed until he was told that it happened.

Beasley probably was not aware of the 2-year-old policy allowing the police to have people injected with the drug to immobilize them and give them amnesia. Few people are aware of the policy until they are injected, and given the amnesia effect of the drug, many are not even aware then.

The Nashville Rescue Mission, Nashville’s mental health judge and the American Civil Liberties Union all said that they are not aware of the use of drug injections by police in Nashville.

Dr. Corey Slovis, Nashville’s emergency medical director, says that the Versed policy is no secret and that he has no idea why so many people do not know about it. Slovis and medical examiner Dr. Bruce Levy customized the forced injection drug policy for Nashville that has been endorsed by a group of medical experts called the Eagles.

Slovis says that the use of forced Versed injections is very common and when he surveyed major metropolitan areas around the country, he found only two cities that were not actively using the drug.

Explanations given in the WSMV News report for the use of forced injections seem to be extremely similar to the excuses given for Taser use. The police call emergency medical technicians when a person is agitated and the paramedic is to determine if the person is in a state of “excited delirium.” As the American Medical Association has yet to recognize excited delirium as a medical condition, it would seem that excited delirium is not a medical emergency requiring sedation.

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