Healthcare News & Insights

‘Don’t tase me, doc!’


More hospitals are using stun guns as part of their security programs– especially in the emergency department. Should they be?

There are at least 150 hospitals in the U.S. that are using, or testing, Taser-branded stun guns. Each facility establishes its own guidelines for their use. Most commonly, they’re used as a last resort when unruly patients, typically in the ER or psych wards, present a danger to themselves and/or others.

But even as a last resort, actual usage on patients (or visitors) is growing. Most notably, last month, Derek Thomas, the nephew of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was allegedly treated roughly and eventually subdued with a stun gun by a security guard at a Louisiana hospital.

No doubt, hospitals need to maintain a safe environment for patients, as well as staff and visitors. But some health care experts and ethicists say that having these devices on hand creates a more combative environment.

What’s your take? Do stun guns and similar devices belong in the hospital? Share your opinion in the comments.

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  1. In my opinion it’s wrong to use stun guns on patients or visitors, why? most patients go into the ER because they are ill, yes some patients can get a little irate because of their wait time but there is no use for stun guns. That is why they have security in hospitals, call security or 911. I am against using stun guns to subdue a patient and then give them treatment afterwards? No, I will leave the hosptial and seek an attorney because of their behaviour.

  2. SafetyGuy says:


    I think your understanding of this article and the Taser may be a bit skewed. I work in a hospital that implemented a very effective Taser program with our Security Department approximately 2 years ago. Generally speaking, Taser usage in a healthcare setting is a much better, safer alternative to hands-on control of a combative individual. Hands-on control has a higher risk of injury to the staff members as a result of extended exersion, close range contact, biting, potential exposure to blood-borne pathogens, etc. The risk of patient injury can be just as, if not more severe due to extended physical exertion, joint injuries caused by multiple staff attemtping to control different limbs, abrasions/contusions, or even worse. I have been witness to a multitude of sustained injuries on behalf of patients and staff when hands-on, physical control was applied. Since our Taser progam was implemented, the number of violent interactions with patients has actually decreased. Why, you might ask? The Taser not only acts as a much safer means to subdue a combative individual, it also becomes a deterent to combative behavior when the device is presented. If you knew you were about to get Tased, wouldn’t you think twice about your actions? If not, you cetainly would the next time you looked at the business end of Taser. With a well defined use of force policy, effective training program, and a Taser Incident Review Board, these devices are a safe, exceptional alternative to physical altercations between staff and combative patients. (As a note: we have never Tased an individual who may have become irrate due to their ER wait time.)

  3. Lee Larkin says:

    Stun guns should never be used in a healthcare setting. We have crisis prevention and intervention training regularly for all registration, emergency department and security staff and recommend it for all our employees. There are ways to handle volatile situations that can prevent further injury for the patient and employees. Using verbal techniques can de-escalate a patient in most cases, when that doesn’t work, isolating the patient and developing a coordinated approach is effective. A team of 2-4 people can take down a violent individual without causing injury if they are properly trained.
    The use of stun guns is lazy and if you can’t take the time to be trained to prevent having to use one, when do you take the time to be trained to make the appropriate decision on when and how to use it?

  4. I agree with Lee’s comment totally, also, when I hear taser I immediately connect that with violence & law enforcement, not in a hospital setting. We do not have taser’s here at our hospital in Washington, DC. In our office we had a guy once who stepped to our director and tried to intimidate her but when he saw 3 other ladies standing behind and beside her he backed down, however we are trained on how to handle violence in the workplace and yes in the process the police was dispatched to our facility. I am sure everyone will have different opinions on taser’s in the hospital environment and this topic can go on for a long time.

  5. SafetyGuy says:

    Our Security team is also required to receive CPI training on an annual basis. As an elective training, some of the officers have received Crisis Intervention (CIT) training, in which local law enforcement agencies send their officers. In addition to all this, our Security officers are also required to attend annual Taser training classes. Of all of these methods of response to violent individuals, the Taser is used as an absolute last resort, as presribed by our Use of Force Policy. No offense intended to anyone, but I have found that most people that are apprehensive to Taser use just don’t know enough about them and/or don’t have the confidence in their staff to use them appropriately (as conservatively as possible) in a healthcare setting.