g44 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
phenylcarbylamine. The equation representing the result is CHCl;i +
3KOH + C6H5NH2 = C6H5NC + 3KC1 + 3H2O. The odour is perceptible
when chloroform is present in the proportion of 1 : 5,000.
Medico-Legal Points.—Accidental deaths occurring during chloroform
anaesthesia must at once be reported to the police, who should investigate
into the cause of death for the satisfaction of the public and for exonerating
the medical man from any fault or misadventure on his part. The law is not
clear as regards the legal responsibility of the anaesthetist or surgeon in such
accidental deaths. At any rate the surgeon is certainly responsible if the
anesthetist happens to be non-qualified. Unfortunately this is usually the
case in outlandish "branch dispensaries in India.
Chloroform inhalation is occasionally used for suicidal purposes, but
more often such deaths are accidental owing to its having been, inhaled to
relieve pain or to produce sleep. In his annual report for the year 1907,
Rai Bahadur Chooni Lai Bose, Chemical Examiner of Bengal, mentions a case
in which an Anglo-Indian woman committed suicide by inhaling chloroform.
Chloroform inhalation has been rarely used as a homicidal agent. It
has been frequently reported in the secular press that chloroform vapour is
used to facilitate theft or rape, but it is doubtful if any authentic cases have
occurred. However, in such cases two questions of medico-legal importance
are likely to arise; viz. (1) whether an individual can be rendered insensible
all at once by chloroform inhalation, and (2) whether a sleeping person can
be anaesthetized without awaking.
1. Whether an individual can be rendered insensible all at once by
chloroform inhalation.—In ordinary circumstances it requires from two to
ten minutes to anaesthetize a person with chloroform, properly diluted with
air. Hence a person may resist if an attempt is made to chloroform him
against his will, unless he is much weaker than his assailant or is over-
powered by several assailants and rendered unfit to struggle. On the
contrary, death is likely to result, if an attempt is made to render a person
suddenly unconscious by the concentrated vapour of chloroform.
2. Whether a sleeping person can be anaesthetized without awaking,—
It is a fact that operations have been performed on sleeping children after
bringing them under chloroform anaesthesia without awaking them, but in
the case of adults, it is possible to do so only by skilled and experienced
anaesthetists, but that too in a very few cases.
In addition to the patient suffering from toxic symptoms, the anesthetist
and other attendants may be affected by poisonous symptoms resulting in
death, if chloroform was used for a long time in an ill-ventilated room lighted
by gas burners or lamps.
Owing to its taste and smell, liquid chloroform is rarely given by the
mouth as a homicidal poison though it is sometimes taken, for suicidal pur-
poses, but more often it is swallowed accidentally.
The Chemical Examiner of Bengal 33 reports the case of a prostitute, who was
drugged with chloroform by two persons on the night of the 14th December 1914. The
history of the case showed that she drank liquor with these persons and shortly after-
wards fell asleep. When she woke up, she found that the visitors had gone and her
ornaments were missing. A bottle left in the room was found to contain a small quantity
of chloroform scented with essence of roses. In his annual report for 1938, the Chemical
jammer of Madras reports a case where a young man committed suicide by swallowing
cniorotorm. About fifty-seven grains of1 chloroform were detected in his viscera.
TT C^oform is not infrequently swallowed' as an intoxicant, and Hofman-
Heberda33 reports that several cases of poisoning occurred among the
\ 32, Ind. Med. Gaz., Aug. 1915, p. 304. ' ,
te. Aufl., l^t p. 903; Webster, Leg. Medf