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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

512                                                MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

Arsenic is used occasionally for suicidal purposes, but owing to much
pain caused by its ingestion suicides resort to this poison much less
frequently than to opium. In his annual report for the year 1950, the
Chemical Examiner, Madras, cites the case of a girl, 18 years old, who com-
mitted suicide by taking arsenic, as she failed twice in the S.S.L.C.
examination.

Accidental cases of poisoning by arsenic sometimes occur from its
admixture with drink or articles of food, or from its improper medicinal use.
White arsenic has been mistaken for baking powder, soda, cream of tartar,
sugar, salt or flour, and has caused mass accidental poisoning. Multiple
accidental cases may also occur from drinking water from streams contain-
ing arsenical mineral deposits. Accidental deaths occur from an overdose,
when arsenic is given by women to their husbands as a love philter.

Accidental or homicidal poisoning by orpiment is not possible owing to
its bright yellow colour, which can be easily recognized. But cases of sui-
cidal poisoning, though rare, have occurred.

In January 1921, a case came under my observation, in which a Hindu male, 50 years
old, committed suicide by taking orpiment. The stomach contained a lot of mucus in
which were entangled particles of yellow sulphide of arsenic. The mucus was adherent
to the inner wall of the stomach, which was inflamed with bloody patches and ulcerations
spread all over the surface, especially at the greater curvature and posterior aspect,

A Mahomedan male, aged about 20, committed suicide by swallowing yellow sulphide
of arsenic. About 37 grains of it were found in the stomach after death.21

A woman, aged about 25, died in about 6 hours after taking yellow arsenic with a
view to committing suicide. About 81 grains of the sulphide were detected in the
stomach.22

Poisoning by arseniuretted hydrogen is generally accidental and occurs
in industrial plants where this gas is evolved in processes which require the
manufacture of hydrogen from the action of hydrochloric or sulphuric acid
upon a metal, such as zinc, iron, lead or antimony, which is usually conta-
minated with arsenic.

Chronic arsenical poisoning with the symptoms of peripheral neuritis
broke out among beer drinkers in an epidemic form in the country of
Lancashire in 1900. Beer was found contaminated with arsenic, varying
from 0.01 to 0.3 grain or even 1.4 grains per gallon, and derived from impure
sulphuric acid used in the manufacture of glucose and cane sugar required
for brewing it.23 A case24 is also recorded where an outbreak of arsenic
poisoning occurred among more than three hundred French officers and
sailors by the drinking of wine in February 1932, The wine on chemical
analysis was found to contain sulphurous acid and 3 to 12 mg. of arsenic per
litre. It appeared that sulphurous acid might have got into the wine from
applying sulphur to the wine casks in the cleansing process. Arsenic
appeared to have got into the wine through the grapes being contaminated
with arsenic by the spraying of the vines with copper or other arsenic-
containing solutions to protect them against insects. It was also possible
that arsenic containing sugar might have been added to the wine.

In his annual report for the year 1947, the Chemical Examiner for the
United and Central Provinces mentions a case which occurred at Wardha,
where 30 individuals suffered from poisoning after eating sugar crystals
which were contaminated with arsenic. Of these one child died. In the
months of January and June of 1947 sugar was fotmd contaminated with,
arsenic derived from gunny bags which contained arsenic in the proportion

21.   Bombay Chem. Analyser's Annual Report, 1935, p. 5.

22.   Beng. Chem. Exam. Annual Rep., 1936, p. 14.

23.   Brit. Med. Jour., Feb. IS, 1901, p. 397.

24.   Jour. Amer. Med. Assoc., July 23, 1932, p. 319,