Skip to main content

Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

728                                                 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

in time prevented her from taking the pills and sent the same to the police
for investigation.

Aconite root is occasionally used as a cattle poison. A case 40 occurred
at Karwi, in which aconite was detected in a substance found on the gene-
rative canal of a she-buffalo ". A case 4T occurred in the district of Bhagal-
pore, where aconite combined with datura seeds and mixed with straw was
used as a cattle poison.

Aconite root is largely used as an arrow poison by the hill people of
Nepal, Assam and neighbouring districts. The Lepchas of Sikkim describe
the root as being " useful to sportsmen for destroying elephants and tigers,
useful to the rich for putting troublesome relations out of the way and
useful to jealous husbands for the purpose of destroying faithless wives".
In the Aka expedition of 1884, poisoned arrows were used against British
soldiers. Some of these were chemically examined by Lieutenant-Colonel
Waddell, I.M.S., and the heads were found to be smeared over with a paste
containing aconite.48

Aconitine is eliminated mainly in the urine. Traces have also been found
in the saliva, sweat and bile. It is, therefore, necessary to preserve these
fluids for chemical analysis, when available. In his annual report for the
year 1940, the Chemical Examiner, Madras, reports a case where he detected
a poisonous alkaloid of the aconitine group in the saliva collected from a
patient suffering from symptoms of aconite poisoning.

Aconitine is extremely unstable and is destroyed by putrefactive pro-
cesses. Hence it is often difficult to detect it after death. It is also decom-
posed by an alkali. Wood ashes which are usually added to vomit destroy aco-
nite owing to the presence of an alkali. Dr. Hankin, therefore, recommends the
mixing of the vomit and wood ashes with a mixture of two parts of rectified
spirit and one part of acetic acid which has the power of checking this
decomposition. In a criminal case 49 of aconite poisoning in the district of
Gorakhpur the Chemical Examiner of the United Provinces of Agra and
Oudh failed to detect it in the viscera of the murdered woman or in the
dejecta or guavas (in which the poison was mixed) . In his letter to the
Superintendent of Police he wrote that it was probable that aconite had
never been detected either by him or anyone else after absorption into the
viscera. It might rarely be detected in the contents of the stomach before
absorption and also in vomit. Aconite being a virulent poison, only small
doses are used and the amount present is, therefore, very little and this
fact obviously adds to the difficulty of detection. In a case where the accused
had murdered her husband by administering aconite in his food on the 27th
March 1925, no aconite ^as detected in the viscera which were despatched
to the Chemical Examine^, U.P., on the 3rd April 1925.50 On the other
hand, in a case where or/e Ali Baksh killed one Khidir by giving aconite
mixed with spices in food/ on the night of April 15, 1924, aconite was detected
by the Chemical Examiner in the viscera, vomited matter containing earth
and reddish-brown powder.51 In another case52 in which the body of a
male, aged 33 years, was buried on the 4th March and disinterred on the
14th March owing to suspicion of foul play, the alkaloids of aconite were
detected in the stomach and stomach contents examined together, but nothing

46.   UP. Chem. Exam. Annual Rep., 1907.

47.   Beng. Chem. Examiner's Annual Rep., 1938, p. 15.

48.   Beng. Chem. Exam. Annual Rep., 1885.

!?•   5* ?* v* Mathura> Allahabad High Court Cr. Appeal No. 91 of 1922

f lAo*         v* Mfc Beatrice and D™id Mewifc, Allahabad High Court Cr, Appeal No. 758
or ±yzo.

E' V' AU Baksht Judicial Commissioner's Court of Oudh Cr, Appeal No. 608
52.   Beng. Chem. Examiner's Annual Rep., 1939, p. 16.                  f