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FORENSIC III

POISONING

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this lecture you should be able to:

List a simple classification of poisoning

Discuss the factors that affect and/or modify the actions of poisons

Describe the autopsy procedures involved in a case of poisoning including the relevant samples to be submitted for toxicological analysis

Describe any postmortem findings specific to the various types of poisons

Discuss poisoning from a West Indian (Caribbean) perspective  

A poison is difficult to define. It may be of animal, vegetable or mineral origin. A poison may be said to be any substance that acts on the body, chemically and/or physiologically, causing in toxic doses a disturbance in function that will consistently cause illness or death.

Toxicology is the study of poisons including their detection, isolation, estimation, action and antidotes.

Forensic toxicology is the medical and legal application of toxicology in determining the cause of illness or death.

Classification

There is no simple classification that incorporates all of the important poisons. Many complex classifications exist, and no single one is perfect. Two examples are:

Chemical
Physiological/Pharmacological

Gaseous e.g. carbon monoxide

Corrosive –  (a) strong mineral/organic acids;                                 (b) strong alkalis

Inorganic –  (a) corrosives

                     (b) metallic and non-metallic salts

Irritant     –  (a) metallic e.g. mercury

                     (b) vegetable e.g. castor oil

                     (c) gas e.g. ammonia

Organic   –  (a) volatile

                    (b) non-volatile, non-alkaloidal

                    (c) alkaloidal

Hypnotic/narcotic e.g. barbiturate, morphine

Miscellaneous e.g. botulism

Deliriant/convulsant e.g. cocaine, strychnine

Paralytic/anti-cholinesterase e.g. curare, nicotine

Abortifacient e.g. ergot, quinine

Poisonous gases e.g. carbon monoxide, prussic acid

Action of poisons

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