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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

MERCURY                                                           531

woman who had taken some red powder given her by a friend as a cure for
headache from which she had been suffering. Within a quarter of an hour
she had felt pains in the abdomen and had vomited blood-stained matter.
Her stomach was washed out at the J. J. Hospital, and she recovered the
next day. About nine grains of red oxide of mercury were separated from
the stomach washings, in which it had been plainly visible as a deposit. A
case68 is also recorded in which red oxide of mercury was given by a woman
to her female infant, 6 days old, with intent to kill her, who had some defor-
mity in her legs. The infant became suddenly ill, was unable to suck and
was salivating profusely, but she was saved by prompt treatment.

Of all the salts of mercury the chlorides and nitrates are responsible for
most of the cases of acute poisoning. It should be noted that mercuric salts
are more poisonous than mercurous salts. Children bear mercury well, and
some persons have idiosyncrasy for mercury salts. Dathan and Macaulay 69
have suggested mercury in teething powders as a cause of pink disease id
infants, and warned against their use in small infants.

Mercuric chloride is extensively used as a disinfectant and as an anti-
septic. Hence accidental cases of poisoning by this salt are likely to occur
from the use of too strong a solution used in washing abscess cavities or in
irrigating the vagina, uterus or rectum. Cases of poisoning have also
occurred from its introduction into the vagina in tablet form as a contra-
ceptive, antisyphilitic or abortifacient measure. C. Holtermann70 has founct
records of ten cases of poisoning, where mercuric chloride was inserted into*
the vagina in tablet form in amounts, varying from 0.25 to 3 grammes. Local
necroses and ulcers occurred especially, in the posterior wall. Poisoning
was due to absorption of mercury alburninate from the necrotic patches.
Seven of these ended in death in one to three weeks. A case is also recorded
in which a woman committed suicide by introducing three tablets of corro-
sive sublimate into the vagina. The whole of the vagina sloughed, thus
facilitating absorption of the poison from the wound. In such cases it is
possible for deposits of mercury albuminate to be formed in the periproctal
tissue, hence it is advisable to inject milk at once as a neutralizer into the
tissue lying between the vagina and rectum. Remoter lesions are severe
parenchymatous nephritis and fatty degeneration of the heart.71

Mercuric chloride is often administered internally as a medicine and an
accidental case of poisoning may occur from an overdose. The soloid pre-
parations of mercuric chloride have been swallowed accidentally in mistake'
for some other ^drug, and have given rise to poisoning in some cases. Some-
times, the salt is selected for suicidal and homicidal purposes.

In his annual report for the year 1934, the Chemical Examiner, Madras, describes
the following cases of poisoning by mercuric chloride.72 Of these the first two are
homicidal and the last suicidal.

1. A man was suspicious of his wife's conduct and there had been frequent quarrels
between them. One evening on returning from work he found his wife absent from
home. He went in search of her, found her and asked her to return home to serve
him food but she refused. As he was hungry he went home and began to eat the food
that had been prepared by his wife early in ,the evening. The food had a queer taste
and suspecting that his wife might have poisoned the food, he reported the matter to
the village magistrate. The food was forwarded to the Chemical Examiner, who found
in it about 17J grains of corrosive sublimate.

6&   Bombay Chem. Analyser's Annual Rep., 1935, p. 5.

69.   Brit. Med. Jour., March 19, 1955, p. 728.

70.   ZentralU. j. Gynakol, Sep. 19, 1925, p. 2133 ; Brit
p. 61.

71.   Rosenthal, ZentralbZ. f. GynaJc., Jan. 9, 1926, p, 1
1926, Ep., p. 36.                                                             *         ,

72.    See also Madras Chem. Examiner's Annual Report for 1949 for a homicidal case
fcy Mercuric Chloride.

69.   tint. Mea. Jour., March 19, 1955, p. 728.

70.   ZentralU. f. GynofcoL, Sep. 19, 1925, p. 2133 ; Brit Med. Jour., Oct. 24, 1925, Ep.,
p. 61.

71.   Rosenthal, ZentrolbZ. f. Gynofc., Jan. 9, 1926, p, 122: Brit Med. Jour., Feb. 20,
1926, Ep., p. 36.                                                             *