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New York Times

Advocates of electrical stun guns say they provide police officers with a nonlethal method of subduing suspects. But some experts believe the devices may have contributed to the deaths of suspects.

Scientific studies have produced mixed results, but a new report suggests that the conclusions of those studies are linked to their financing sources. Cardiologists at the University of California, San Francisco, reviewed 50 published studies on Taser guns, including 23 financed by the manufacturer, Taser International, or written by someone affiliated with it, and 27 conducted by independent researchers. Twenty-two of the 23 studies linked to the manufacturer concluded stun guns were either not harmful or not likely to be harmful. Seventy percent concluded they were not harmful at all. In contrast, just over half of the independent studies found that Tasers were either not harmful or unlikely to be harmful. Twenty-six percent concluded they were not harmful at all.

"When you look at the research, you find out a lot of the articles that are touted by police departments are funded by the company, and it may be the research is being influenced and tainted," said Dr. Byron Lee, an associate professor at the university and senior author of the study, which was presented this month to the Heart Rhythm Society. Steve Tuttle, a Taser executive, said the device "is considered the most-tested less-lethal use of force technology today."