Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Total Surprise (by Phila)

Bruce Schneier links to an article which claims that the Nashville police are using Midazolam injections in order to calm "unruly" suspects.
While the Metro police had banned the use of Tasers for a time, they still used a controversial method to subdue unruly people, according to an I-Team report.

The city's policy to use the method, which calls for the injection of a drug into a person, came as a "total surprise" to people most would expect to know all about it.
Midazolam is allegedly indicated in cases of "excited delirium." Dr. Corey Slovis, Nashville’s emergency medical director, explains how to spot people who are suffering from this syndrome:
"I don't know if I would use the word diagnosing, but they are assessing the situation and saying, 'This person is not acting rationally. This is something I've been trained to recognize, this seems like excited delirium.'"
The problem is, "excited delirium" is not a recognized medical or psychiatric condition; the diagnosis tends to be applied posthumously to people who were unlucky enough to die while in police custody (cf. Patrick Lee, who died of "excited delirium" after being tased 19 times).

Also, it's safe to say that some of these people are going to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which makes injecting them with Midazolam even more dangerous than usual. Certain blood-pressure drugs, antifungals, antibiotics, and other medications can have serious interactions with Midazolam, too; it seems as though this could make "assessing the situation" a bit harder than Dr. Slovis lets on. Add to this the fact that it's going to be difficult to inject unruly people safely unless you already have them restrained, and the argument for sedating suspects with Midazolam begins to seem pretty dubious.

Still, none of that is quite as disturbing as this:
The biggest side effect that is seen in more than 80 percent of those who are injected with Versed is amnesia.

The side effect raises the question of a person being able to defend themselves in court if they can't remember what happened.