Tasers, Drone Attacks, and Hospice Gone Awry

This week’s top MuckReads from ProPublica.

Chicago-area police have significantly increased their Taser use in recent years

Photograph by iStockphoto.

Here are this week’s top must-read stories from #MuckReads, ProPublica’s ongoing collection of the best watchdog journalism. Anyone can contribute by tweeting a link to a story and just including the hashtag #MuckReads or by sending an email to The best submissions are selected by ProPublica’s editors and reporters and then featured on ProPublica and on Twitter @ProPublica.

Doubts Surface as Police Sharply Increase Taser Use, Chicago Tribune
Chicago police used Tasers more than twice a day in 2011, a rate five times higher than in 2008. Suburban departments have doubled their Taser use.  A reason, perhaps? “Departments are on their own in developing policies on when and how electroshock devices should be deployed, with no state regulation,” the Tribune writes.
Contributed by @scribeguy

Hospice Turns Months-to-Live Patient Into Years of Abusing Drugs, Bloomberg News
A man wrongly told he had months to live was given what his doctor said was the highest Oxycontin and oxycodone prescription he could write. After being admitted to hospice 11 months later, his prescription was increased to 14 times the previous level. Years later, he left still alive and addicted to the narcotics.
Contributed by Peter Waldman

Medtronic Paid Millions to Influential UW Chairman, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
The chairman of the orthopedics deparment at the University of Wisconsin has received millions consulting for medical device company Medtronic in recent years. Is it a coincidence that the university’s hospital has spent millions buying Medtronic products since 2004?
Contributed by @LindaAustin

State Reports Detail 11 Patient Deaths Linked to Alarm Fatigue in Massachusetts, Boston Globe
Nurses can become desensitized to the constant blaring of monitor warnings, many of them false alarms—a phenomenon called alarm fatigue. It’s been linked to 11 deaths since 2005 in Massachusetts.
Contributed by @charlesornstein

Was Teen Killed By CIA Drone a Militant—or Innocent Victim?, ABC News
The U.S. claims a 16-year-old killed in a drone attack was a budding jihadi. His family says he was an earnest activist intent on monitoring the very drone program that killed him.
Contributed by @DafnaLinzer

Records Fail To Disclose $235 Million in State Work Given to Officials’ Private Interests, Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
Due to a loophole in Maine law, $235 million given to private organizations run by legislators or spouses of state officials between was never disclosed in ethics filings. Those who benefitted say statehouse colleagues knew of the overlapping roles, creating a “check” on conflicts of interest.
Contributed by Naomi Schalit

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