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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

SNAKES                                                            607

may not be visible to the naked eye, but may be seen with, a lens. There
is a good deal of swelling and cellulitis about the bitten part and haemor-
rhage from the punctures as well as from the mucous membranes of the body
orifices. The areolar tissue round about the punctures is purple and infil-
trated. The blood is extremely fluid and purple in colour. In cases of
viperine bites solid clots may occur in the veins due to the fibrin ferment.

Chemical Analysis.—The following serum test,12 as employed by Dr.
Hankin, is used in the Government Laboratories, Uttar Pradesh, Agra: —

Make an aqueous solution or extract from a suspected rag, and inject
it into a frog. If the frog dies, find out the lethal dose. Then take two more
weighed frogs and inject into them their lethal dose, as follows : —

(a)  The  extract mixed with double  the volume  of freshly obtained
antivenene   (serum immunized against cobra and Russell's viper venom)
after incubation for an hour.

(b)   The extract under similar condition, but untreated with antivenene.

Presence of snake venom is indicated by frog (a) being killed, and (b)
remaining unaffected.

Medico-Legal Points.—Snake poisoning has not much medico-legal value
except that in some cases of suicidal or homicidal deaths the alleged cause
of death given by the relatives is snake-bite.

On. the 28th August 1919, the body of Musammat &ausalia, 20 years old, of Police-
Station Malihabad, was brought to the King George's Medical College Mortuary with
a report that the deceased had been bitten by a snake. Upon examination of the body
I found that the death was due to hanging. In another case, where a Hindu girl of 15
years was alleged to have died from snake-bite on the 23rd July 1922, dissection revealed
rupture of the internal surface of the enlarged spleen.

Snake venom is seldom used for homicidal or suicidal purposes. A
case u is recorded where an attempt at homicidal poisoning was made. A
man attempted to throw some poison on the open wound of another, but
missed the mark. The suspected poison was' found to be cobra venom.

A case of suicide14 by the injection of dried snake venom into a small
wound is recorded. A man murdered his wife and to avoid the charge of
murder attempted to commit suicide by taking arsenic by the mouth, and
then as an additional precaution injected snake venom into a small wound
on his left thigh in a resolute attempt to commit suicide.

Cattle are sometimes criminally poisoned by introducing into the rectum
rags impregnated with cobra poison. Dr. Hankin describes the process as
follows : A cobra is shut up in an earthen vessel with a banana and irritated.
It bites the fruit, thus injecting its venom into the pulp, which is smeared
on a rag. This rag is thrust, by the aid of a split bamboo, into the animal's
rectum. Such rags are usually found post-mortem; they should be dried,
but never preserved in spirit, for this destroys the poison, which looks like
a greasy substance of a dirty white colour like putty. It is also asserted that
sometimes the snake is made to strike the victim directly.

Snake venom is poisonous only when injected subcutaneously, intramus-
cularly or intravenously, and has no ill-effects when taken by the mouth, as
the venom is not absorbed from the gastric mucous membrane. The bodies
of animals killed by snake poisoning may be eaten without any ill-effects, but
their blood is poisonous, and destroys fife, if injected into the human body.

Snake venom does not remain in the skin after a bite, but infiltrates into
the areolar tissue and at some distance from the punctures owing to the free
movement of the skin,

12.   Chatterji, The Analyst, Nov. 1930.

13.   Madras Chemical Examiner's Annual Report, 1929, p. 6.

14.   Madras Chemical Examiner's Annual Report, 1933, p, 4.