Skip to main content

Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

See other formats

590                                              MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

stomach. The mouth and throat are also dry and consequently swallowing is difficult.
Intense thirst, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. The motions resemble very much choleraic
stools except that they contain blood and shreds of mucous membrane, and that they
are accompanied by tenesmus. A sensation of oppression is felt in the prsecordial region
with a feeling of vertigo. The patient is greatly prostrated and collapsed. The skin is
cold; the face is pale or cyanosed. The pulse is small, irregular and imperceptible, and
the respirations are slow and laboured. Towards death the pupils are dilated, twitchings
of the muscles, spasms or convulsions occur, and the urine becomes scanty and contains
blood and albumin; it is sometimes suppressed. The mind remains clear till death, which
occurs from respiratory paralysis. In rare cases stupor may supervene before death.

Fatal Dose.—-Uncertain. One grain of colchicine may be considered to be a fatal
dose. "One-twentieth grain of colchicine injected hypodermically has caused death.

Fatal Period.—Death has occurred in seven hours. It usually takes place within
thirty hours, but may be delayed for four and even ten days. Sydney Smith 5ii mentions
the case of two children who ate colchicum bulbs. One of them died in a few minutes
and the other died in forty hours.

Treatment.—Wash out the stomach with water containing tannic acid or tannin,
which is a chemical antidote. Give mucilaginous drinks and hypodermic injections of
morphine to allay pain and irritation. Administer normal saline and glucose intravenously
and strychnine and atropine hypodermically to combat collapse. Apply warmth and fric-
tion "to the body. Resort to artificial respiration, if necessary.

Post-mortem Appearances.-—Inflarnmation of the mucous membrane of title stomach
and intestines is usually found. The kidneys may be markedly congested and inflamed.

Chronic Poisoning.—When given in medicinal doses for a prolonged period, colchicum
may produce chronic poisoning, the chief symptoms being furred tongue, disagreeable
taste, thirst, loss of appetite, pain in the stomach, and diarrhoea with flatulence.

Chemical Analysis.—The alkaloid is extracted by the Stas-Otto process from the
acid solution of chloroform.

Tests.—1. Pure concentrated nitric acid added to colchicine produces a dirty violet
colour, which changes to brownish-red and then yellow. The yellow colour changes to
orange-yellow or orange-red on adding strong caustic soda or potash solution.

2.    Concentrated sulphuric acid forms with colchicine a bright yellow solution which,
on adding a drop of strong nitric acid, changes to green, blue, violet and lastly pale
yellow.   An orange-red colour is produced, if a strong solution of caustic soda or potash
be added.

3.   Strong hydrochloric acid dissolves colchicine with a bright yellow colour.    The
colour becomes greenish-black, if the solution be boiled with a few drops of ferric
chloride solution, and chloroform agitated with this is coloured garnet-red or brown.

Medico-Legal Points.—Colchicum and its preparations are used as remedies for gout.
Hence accidental cases of poisoning sometimes occur from an overdose of their prepara-
tions. Poisonous cases have also been produced by the administration of Blair's gout
pills atid other proprietary remedies containing colchicum.

Accidental cases of poisoning have also occurred from taking colchicum leaves in
mistake for salad or from drinking milk of goats fed on the leaves,

A woman53 prepared a bitter alcoholic drink from herbs which contained 0.012 to
0.06 per cent colchicine and gave it to her husband. He was taken ill with alarming
general weakness, colic and diarrhoea. H took him three weeks to recover.

A few cases of homicidal poisoning have occurred. In September 1863, Catherine
Wilson was convicted of the murder of a Mrs. Soames by administering colchicum. From
the evidence at the trial it appeared that' the accused had similarly destroyed three
other persons.


This is a plant belonging to N.O. Rammculaceae. Its seeds (staphisagrise semlna) are,
non-official, and are used in the form of an ointment for destroying pediculi. The seeds
are irregularly triangular or obscurely quadrangular, dark brown when fresh and greyish
brown on keeping, and have a nauseous, bitter, acrid taste, They act both as an irritant
and as a depressant poison. The seeds contain alkaloids, the chief of which are delphi-
nine, allied to aconitine, and staphisagrine, -similar in action to curare*

Poisoning by stavesacre seeds is rare. The symptoms are burning pain in the throat,
gullet and stomach, intense thirst, vomiting, diarrhoea, dilated pupils, slow, feeble pulse,'
difficult and laborious breathing, collapse and death from respiratory failure.

52.   Forensic Med.,. Ed, ££, p. 549.

"53.   Compilation of Coses of Poisoning by H." Fuehrer, F. Hesse and F. Starkenstein,
Vol. I, Nos. 11 and 12; Vol. II, No. 1,1930 to 1931; Ar$. Medici., Jan. 1932, p. 13,