Military response to protests using tear gas

New Article: The Language of Less-Lethal Weapons

April 18, 2022

Clinical Ethicist Joel Wu, JD, MPH, MA, HEC-C and affiliate Rachel Hardeman, PhD, MPH co-authored follow-up research on the use of less-lethal weapons in policing. 



"It has been over 1 year since we observed the policing of the George Floyd protests in the United States [R. R. Hardeman, E. M. Medina, R. W. Boyd, N. Engl. J. Med. 383, 197–199 (2020)]. Multiple injury reports emerged in medical journals, and the scientific community called for law enforcement to discontinue the use of less-lethal weapons [E. A. Kaske et al., N. Engl. J. Med. 384, 774–775 (2021) and K. A. Olson et al., N. Engl. J. Med. 383, 1081–1083 (2020)]. Despite progress in research, policy change has not followed a similar pace. Although the reasoning for this discrepancy is multifactorial, failure to use appropriate language may be one contributing factor to the challenges faced in updating policies and practices. Here, we detail how language has the potential to influence thinking and decision-making, we discuss how the language of less-lethal weapons minimizes harm, and we provide a framework for naming conventions that acknowledges harm."