Closings, delays and early dismissals

Doctors create stun gun that can also read heart rate, rhythm

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have created a prototype of a stun gun that can also read a subject's heart rate and heart rhythm.

"There have been documented cases of deaths surrounding the use of a taser and we don't know when that rhythm changes over to a deadly rhythm," said Emergency Medicine Physician Jason Stopyra, who has been working on the prototype for about five years. "We don't know if it's the taser that caused [rhythm changes] or other circumstances around the actually encounter itself," he said. "This would allow us to objectively record when and what the rhythm is following the taser being deployed."

Officers with the Mount Airy Police Department were the first to try out the prototype that allowed researchers to get an EKG reading after tasering the officer. Once the taser is fired, it incapacitates an individual for about five seconds. Immediately following the EKG can tell an officer if the subject is suffering from heart failure and needing medial help.

"This proves we can monitor a patient using devices that law enforcement agency already use," said Stopyra. "That's our goal."

The study was paid for with a grant and help from the National Institute for Justice. Researchers have shared their findings with stun gun manufactures.