LONDON, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 1837. [1836-37.
MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE,NOW IN COURSE OF DELIVERY,
UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.
BY PROFESSOR A. T. THOMSON.
Nux VOMICA.Igasaurate of strychnia inarnica montuaaa. Treatment of poisoningwith nux-vomica and strychnia. M. Donralsproposed antidotes. Circumstance of thestomach which increases the activity ojstrychnia, - CAMPHOR. Poisoning there-with, and treatment.
SEDATIVE POISONS:- Their generalcharacters. PRUSSIC ACID. Poisoning-therewith. Recovery. Mode and rapidityof action.OIL OF BITTER ALMONDS. Poi-soning therewith. Volatile oil expressedfrom them.LAURO-CERASUS. Its botani-cal characters. Laurelwater. Poisoningthei-eu,ith in food, and otherwise. Chemi-cal tests for, and post-mortem appearancesin, poisoning with these sedatives. Case ofthe murder of Sir T. Boughton. Evidenceof Dr. Rattray and John Hunter on thetrial. Treatment qf poisoning with thesesedatives.GENTLEMEN :-1 am disposed to think that
arnica montana contains igasaurate of strych-nia, because not only does the infusion ofthe petals, when tested with ammoniacalsulphate of copper, afford a green tint, butthe symptoms of poisoning by it closelyresemble those of poisoning by nux vomica.
In treating cases of poisoning by nuxvomica, or by strychnia, the contents of thestomach may be advantageously evacuatedat any period of the attack ; and the sto-mach-pump is preferable, in this instance,to emetics. Much dilution is required onaccount of the very close adhesion of the
powder of nux vomica to the coats of thestomach. Dr. CHRISTISON says, that, "ifthe person be not attacked with spasm intwo hours, he will generally be safe."M. DoNNE has proposed to employ chlo-
rine, bromine, and iodine, as antidotes forpoisoning by strychnia; and, consequently,for that by nux vomica ; because he hasfound that compounds of these substances,and strychnia, are not poisonous. Twograins of the iodide, or the bromide, or thechloride of strychnia, produced no poison-ous effects on a dog; and a dog which hadtaken one grain of strychnia, and two grainsof veratria, when tincture of iodine wasadministered, in less than ten minutes after-wards, was not injured ; but when a greaterdelay took place in the administration ofthe antidote, it was useless. This, of itself,is, in my opinion, a great objection to thesealleged antidotes, as the symptoms of theinfluence of the poison are not displayed,even in dogs, till twelve or fifteen minuteshave elapsed after taking strychnia; and,at any time before these have appeared, theevacuation of the stomach by a brisk emeticwill secure the safety of the person. Evenafter the symptoms of poisoning have firstdisplayed themselves, the evacuation of thestomach lessens greatly the danger of thepatient. I am also doubtful whether thehydrochloric acid in the stomach wouldnot greatly interfere with the formation ofthese iodides in that viscus. The subjectrequires farther investigation.
All acids should be carefully avoided, asthe compounds formed between them andstrychnia, or brucia, are more poisonous,owing to their greater solubility than thestrychnia or the brucia alone ; indeed, theactivity of strychnia, either as a poison oras a remedy, very much depends on thequantity of acid present in the stomach atthe time of its administration. It is chieflyowing to this circumstance that we find in-dividuals to whom strychnia is administer-ed as a remedy in paralysis, so differ-ently affected by it. DEVERGIE says that hehas given it to the extent of seven grains aday to some individuals without any dele-terious effect; yet it is well known thatsome individuals suffer from doses of even
the twelfth of a grain. In one case in theNorth London Hospital, the influence of theacetate of strychnia, in doses of the tenthof a grain, was so severe upon the respira-tory function, that I was forced to discon tinue the use of the remedy. The applica-tion of the actual cautery on the loins, whichwas substituted for the strychnia, very soonrelieved the symptoms caused by the drug ;and, in cases of overdosing by strychnia, Ihave seen cupping on the loins prove highlybeneficial,
In the collapse which supervenes, brandy,opium, and camphor may be freely admi-nistered; but I have never seen any re.covery take place after collapse has ap-peared.
I have put down cmnplwl as the last ofthe narcotico-acrid poisons; but it is one notvery likely to display its influence on man,unless under peculiar circumstances, orwhere it has been made the subject of expe-riment, as it was by Dr. ALEXANDER uponhimself.
Dr. EDWARDS has recorded a case inwhich ss. of camphor was given in theform of enema. The person soon felt thetaste of the drug ; and, oil going down stairs,he seemed so light that he appeared to him-self to skim along the floor almost withouttoucbing it. He staggered, became pale,felt chilly, and experienced a sensation ofnumbness of the scalp. He recovered aftertaking a glass of wine; but for twenty-four hours the odour of the camphor wasexhaled with his breath. ORFILA*, who re-lates this case of Dr. EDWARDS, made severalexperiments on dogs, which fully demon-strated the poisonous influence of camphoron these animals. From these experiments,and from a case related by HOFFMAN of aman who took ij. of camphor dissolved inoil, the irritant influence of camphor is de-monstrated.The symptoms of poisoning by camphor
are, in the first instance, a vertiginous feel-ing, accompanied with confusion of ideas,and an indistinctness of vision; a loss ofconsciousness succeeds, with convulsions,foaming at the mouth, and maniacal phrensy.
In treating cases of this kind, the sto-mach should be evacuated as rapidly aspossible, and cordials afterwards freelyadministered.
SEDATIVE POISONS.Sedative poisons are usually ranked with
narcotic poisons, but the difference of theeffects produced by their influence uponthe system, is too obvious not to point outthe necessity of separating them, and form-ing a distinct class, or sedative poisons.
Sedatives, when administered in doses
* Toxicologie Generate, ii., 400.
suflicient to prove poisonous, cause no pre:vious symptoms of excitement : their de-pressing power is immediately felt, andoften, in a few seconds, death, without anymorbid symptoms, is the result. That thisis the consequence of a direct sedative in-fluence on the nervous energy is undoubted;and the fact that convulsions sometimesdisplay themselves, when the dose is notsufficient to cause instantaneous death, is noargument against the opinion, since (lefee-tive stimulus of the brain produces convul-
sions as decidedly as over excitement ofthat organ; a fact strikingly illustrated inprofuse haemorrhages and over-bloodletting,The influence of sedative poisons is ex-
erted chiefly on the nerves of sensation;and this is often displayed locally. RoBt-
QUET continued for some time to hold hisfingel- on the mouth of a bottle containingsome strong hydrocyanic acid, whilst hewas conversing with a friend ; it becamenumbed, and continued so for thirty hours,yet he felt no other inconvenience from thecircumstance.The sedative poisons differ in other re-
spects from the narcotic ; thus post-mortemexaminations display no characters of in-flammatory action having existed in the mti-cous membrane, or in the brain, or in thespinal chord; indeed no changes appear ineither the stomach or the lungs, nor in anyof the nervous organs.The cause of death, in every instance,
seems to he an immediate and direct ex-haustion of nervous excitability.
The first of the sedative poisons is hydlo-cyanic acid, either alone or in substances inwhich it abounds; namely-the oil of bitteralmonds, the distilled water of bitter al-monds, the distilled water of the prunuslauro-cerasus, and noyau.
Hydrocyanic acid has too frequentlybeen employed as an instrument of deathby the suicide ; occasionally, also, it hasbeen used by the murderer.
In treating of poisoning by this acid, Ido not intend to make any reference to theanhydrous acid ; for, although it is themost virulent of poisons, yet, owing to thedifficulty of keeping it, the possibility ofits becoming a poisonous agent is very rare:it is the diluted acid, such as is usuallyemployed as a medicinal agent, which de-mands our attention.Many instances pf its employment as an
instrument of suicide are on record. HurE-LAND relates the case of a thief who swat-lowed f,j. of the medicinal acid, equal to 40minims of the anhydrous: he staggered, anddied in less than five minutes. A medicalman, with whom I was intimately acquaint-ed, determined to destroy himself. Aftermaking his will, and arranging all his affairs,he purchased an ounce of hydrocyanic acid,
at Gardens, the Chemist, in Oxford-street;and walked as far as the end of Argyle-street. Having called a hackney-coach fromthe stand, whilst it was turning round heopened the phial and drank its contents. Healmost immediately staggered, was forced tosupport himself by holding by the post, andhad scarcely power with the assistance ofthe cad, to enter the coach, and order it togo to Sloane-street: on arriving there, theunfortunate gentleman was found, seated inthe corner of the coach, completely dead.An instructive case of poisoning by this
acid, where the person recovered, is detailedin the 11 Revue Medicale," for 1825. A phy-siciau at Rennes, who had taken two tea-spoonfuls of the oflicinal hydrocyanic acidwith impunity, swallowed, on the 5th Sep-tember, 1824, at seven oclock in the evening,an equal dose of the acid twice at a veryshort interval. He had taken a hearty diu-ner five hours before. He had scarcely leftthe room where he swallowed the acid,when he felt a confusion of head, but as hehad occasionally experienced the same thingbefore, he did not particularly attend to it. IOn entering his laboratory he fell down likea person who had been struck with lighten-ing, or with apoplexy. He lost all con-sciousness ; his face and neck swelled; thepupils became fixed and dilated ; trismussupervened ; he scarcely breathed ; the ex-tremities were icy cold; a strong odour-of jthe acid issued from his mouth; and the pulsewas nearly imperceptible. In a few minutes,violent convulsions displayed themselves,!and the extremities were horribly distorted. I,These symptoms continued for nearly twohours and a half, at the end of which timehe gradually regained his consciousness;but several days elapsed before he com-pletely recovered.The French Codex, orders a syrup of
hydrocyanic acid. It was administered in Idrachm doses to seven epileptics in the Bi-ctre, and all of them died, with syt-nptomssimilar to those which I have j list described.
In whatever manner it is prescribed oradministered, either therapeutically or as aposion, hydrocyanic acid operates directlyon the nervous centres.Experiments on the lower animals de-
monstrate that it acts most energeticallywhen it is applied to serous membranes,next, when it is taken into the stomach,-thirdty, on the cellular tissue and ulceratedsurfaces,and lastly, on the sound skin.EMMERT, COULLON, KRIMER, and others,
have drawn opposite conclusions to mine,with regard to its action on the nerves,jn consequence of observing that it doesnot act on cut nerves, nor on expos-ed nerves;nor on the brain, nor the spi-nal chord. They also contend that, be-cause when vessels of a part are tied, beforetQnc4ipg it with this poison, its action ispl,evente,4; and is not prevented by dividing
nerves;and because it is discovered inblood, it must necessarily operate by absorp-tion.The rapidity of its action,for instance,
the application of the strong acid to the eyeof a dog, causing instant death, is againstthis idea :-and, in my opinion, it can onlybe explained, by supposing that the poisonacts through the nerves.The effect of a strong dose of hydrocyanic
acid is death, almost instantaneous, andwithout convulsions. Such large doses maycause death in a few seconds ; but some mi.nutes may elapse.
In more moderate, but yet poisonous doses,the symptoms are vertigo, nansea, great de-pression of the strength ; the weakness is feltchiefly in the limbs ;-tetanic convulsions ;gradually i tiereasin- insensibility, coi-na, anddeath. In some instances; salivation hassupervened.When it proves fatal, death generally takes
place in less than fifteen minutes:whenrecovery ensues, the symptoms may go onfor many hours ;-in some instances theyhave extended to twelve hours.
If a patient survive thirty or forty minutes,he will generally recover. Nevertheless thesymptoms have continued for more than a.day, and yet death has ensued. In man, theperiod depends on the extent of the dose ;but in no case are the fatal ejects so rapidas in the lower animals. I have seen a dog,to whom iv. of the medicinal acid were ad-ministered, die before he could be placed onthe ground, from the lap of the assistantwho held him. Some experiments weremade by Mr. MACAULEY, of Leicester, to de-termine whether an Apothecarys servantwho was poisoned with hydrocyanic acid,could, after taking the dose, before becominginsensible, have time to cork the phial, wrapit up, and adjust the bed clothes. He madethree experiments on dogs : one dog, whotook f3iv., died in four seconds; another,who took the same quantity, died in sevenseconds; and a third, who took f5ivss., diedin three seconds. As far as this evidencewent, the presumption was, that the girl hadeither been poisoned, or that some one hadbeen present to arrange these matters ; forhad convulsions taken place, her positionwould have displayed it. The apprenticeof her master, by whom she was pregnant,was tried for the murder, but he was ac-quitted.
Such is the influence of this poison onthe animal system.
Cyanide cf potassiuiii,Which is formed by decomposing ferrocya-nate of potassa, by a long continued redheat, separating the soluble matter, andevaporating to dryness, operates as a poisonin the same manner as hydrocyanic acid.In a solid state this cyqi)j(le is deliquescent,very soluble and has an alkaline reaction.
It is inodorous, but has a taste resemblingthat of hydrocyanic acid. Its effects onthe animal economy are exactly the same asthose of hydrocyanic acid. It has been re-commended to be used in the same manneras the hydrocyanic acid ; and requires thesame precautions.
OIL OF BITTER ALMONDS.
This is procured by the distillation withwater of the marc remaining after the pres-sure of bitter almonds, in order to extractthe bland oil. It contains two substanceswhich operate differently. One is an azo-tised substance, very poisonous, uncrystal-lisable ; the other, unazotised, and readilycrystallising on exposure to air or oxygengas, which changes it to an acid.The azotised substance exerts a powerful
action on the animal economy, one drop al-most instantaneously destroying a small bird.On quadrupeds it exerts a less powerful
action than hydrocyanic acid.ROBIQUET and VILLERME tried its influ-
ence on a guinea-pig ; one drop appeared atfirst to produce no effect, but after two mi-nutes the limbs of the animal became tot-tering, the head swayed from right to left,the animal squatted on its rump, and de-scribed an arc of a circle of which the dor-sal line was the verge. To this succeededconvulsions of the thoracic muscles, and,after four minutes, it became calm. At theend of seven minutes the convulsions recom-menced, the respiration was greatly affected,with a powerful contraction of the expira-tory muscles. In three minutes more, everymotion had ceased, and respiration was im-perceptible, at the end of thirteen minutesthe pulsations of the heart were more mani-fest and easily accelerated, but at the end ofeighteen minutes every evidence of life wasextinct. When the convulsions ceased, themuscles were relaxed.The following are the usual symptoms of
poisoning by oil of bitter almonds. In smalldoses, nausea and vomiting first occur; thendiarrha and vertigo. In large doses, ver-tigo almost instantly comes on ; the featuresare spasmodically contracted, the eyes arefixed and turned upwards ; the pupils areimmoveable; the breathing is stertorous ; thepulse reduced to thirty in a minute; thebreath exhaling the odour of bitter almonds ;and death generally takes place in ten mi-nutes.A woman gave a child the expressed juice
of a handful of bitter almonds to cureworms : colic, swelling of belly, vertigo,locked jaw, frothing at mouth, convulsions,insensibility, and death, happened in twohours. The poisonous influence of bitteralmonds was known at a period so early,that before the time of DIOSCORIDEB, whomentions it, these almonds were used by theGreeks to kill wolves. According to someexperiments of ORFILA, twenty bitter al-monds will kill a dog in six hours, if he be
prevented from vomiting by a ligature onthe oesophagus ; and when six of the al.monds were made into a paste, and intro.duced into a wound, they killed a dog infour days.The volatile oil, procured by distilling the
marc of bitter almonds, was experimentedwith by Sir BENJAMIN BRODIE, who foundthat a single drop of it, placed on the tongueof a cat, killed it in five minutes. The bit..ter almond, when eaten in great quantity,causes nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, andother symptoms of disordered digestiveorgans: and similar effects are produced, insome persons, even when a single bitteralmond is eaten. In some cases an eruptionresembling urticaria is produced. This wasthe case with the distinguished author ofthe Conspectus Medicines," who was sosusceptible in the digestive organs, thatthe same effect was produced on him bywhite of egg. A stout labourer had eatena large quantity of bitter almonds. Hedropped down, and Mr. KENNEDY, who wassent for to see him, found him insensible;the pulse was imperceptible, and the breathexhaled the odour of bitter almonds, the re-mains of many of which were found in thestomach.The effect of the oil of bitter almonds on
the human subject is modified by the vola-tile oil to which it owes its odour, andwhich operates as an excitant, so that theinfluence of this oil more closely resemblesthat of a narcotic than a simple sedative.A gentleman, forty-eight years of age, swal.lowed 3ij. of it: his servant found him withhis features spasmodically contracted, andhis breathing hurried and convulsed. Aphysician who saw him twenty minutesafterwards, found him insensible, the pupilsimmoveable, the breathing stertorous, thepulse beating only 30 in a minute, and thebreath smelling strongly of the oil. Hedied ten minutes afterwards.
PRUNUS I.A URO-CERSASUS.
Many parts of plants, which have theodour of the bitter almond, namely, thepeach leaves, cherry-stone kernels, and theleaves and kernels of other species of pru-nus, are as poisonous as hydrocyanic acid,to which all of them owe their poisonousproperties. The most poisonous of them,however, is the prunus lauro-cerasus, orcherry laurel. It is a beautiful evegreen,flowering in July.
It is a native of the shores of the BlackSea, and was transported into Europe in the16th century. It thrives freely in our gar-dens. The plant rises from five to fifteenfeet in height, is very branching, and thestem is covered with a blackish bark. Theleaves are almost sessile, distick upon thebranches, oblong, acuminated at the apex,slightly denticulate, green, and shining onthe upper disk, paler billow, and ceriace-
ous. The flowers are in long, axillary ra-cemes, each flows" being supported on ashort pedicel:they are white, small, andexhale a powerful odour. The fruit is anovoid, elongated drupe, resembling thesmall black cherry, or guigores, but theyare smaller. Their taste is sweet and in-sipid.When the leaves of the plant are bruised
and distilled, they yield an oil closely re-sembling that of bitter almonds, and thewater which comes over with it contains asmall portion of the oil, and a large quantityof hydrocyanic acid. ,Dr. PRICE, the alchemist, destroyed him- I,
self with this laurel-water, as it is termed.It was then frequently used as a sedative.Many experiments, made on quadrupeds, !ihave determined its powers. Among other I,experimentalists, M. OLLIVIER, of Angers, ifound that fiv. of it will kill a strong dogin ten or fifteen minutes; and what is, priori, curious, the same dose produces thesame fatal effect after it has been freed fromthe hydrocyanic acid, by means of potassaand sulphate of iron. This has been ex-plained by the fact that, besides the free ,acid, it contains the elements of the acid,for when liquor potassm is added to thefluid freed from the acid, and the mixtureheated, cyanide of potassium is formed,capable of again forming Prussian blue with Isulphate of iron. IAs the leaves of this plant, are often used
to flavour custards and puddings, accidentshave occasionally followed its use in thisway. Dr. PARIS mentions an instance ofseveral children, at an English boarding-school, having suffered from a custard fla-voured with these leaves. FODER notices,in his " Medicine Legal.," tom. iv., p. 27, thefollowing fatal influence of it on two maid-servants at Turin, in 17S4. These girls stolea bottle of the distilled water of cherry lau-rel, and, fearful of being discovered, theyfinished the whole in a short time, andalmost immediately perished in convul-sions. The bodies were opened at the Uni-versity : the stomachs were found slightlyinflamed, but the rest of the organs were ina healthy condition.Sedatives.Chemical Tests and Post-morteoa
Appearances.In every instance of poisoning by any of
these sedative plants, or by the oil of thebitter almond, or by hydrocyanic acid, thepost-mortem appearances are the same; andthe mode of testing is in all cases the sameas if the poison were simple hydrocyanicacid.With regard to the post-mortem examina-
tion of the body in cases of poisoning byhydrocyanic acid, or the substances con-taining it, much depends on the period atwhich the inspection is made. The soonerit can be done with propriety the better;
for when the body has been exposed for twoor three days to the air, no traces of the poi-son can be detected in it. Its decompositionin the animal body is much hastened by thecommencement of putrefaction, consequentlythe inspection should be made sooner insummer than in winter.When death has taken place from hydro-
cyanic acid, the eyes remain glistening, andthe features are as composed as those of aliving person, appearances which continuefor eight or ten hours ; and for at least anhour after death, the eye is susceptible ofthe impression of light : the pupil dilatesand contracts. I observed this very re-markably displayed in the case of the medi-cal gentleman which I detailed to you : theglistening continued for upwards of tenhours. It must be remarked, however, thatthis condition of the eye cannot alone berelied upon as characteristic of this descrip-tion of poisoning, for the same effect is per-ceived in asphyxia from carbonic acid gas.Dr. CHRISTISON remarks, that he observed itsix hours after death, in a woman who diedof cholera. There is, also, a peculiar bril-liancy in the eye in fatal instances of poison-ing by strychnia, and after death from theepileptic paroxysm. This state of the eye,however, gives value to the other appear-ances.
With respect to the external condition ofthe body, the spine is generally stiff, andthe belly drawn in.On opening the body, the odour of the acid
is frequently, but not always, perceivedwhen it is obvious it pervades every ca-vity ; and, often, it is very perceptible inthe blood, especially when the dose has beenlarge.On opening the stomach the odour is often
very obvious there, when it is not so obvi-ous in the blood. This was the case in aninstance recorded by MERTZDORFF, and,also, in the seven epileptics poisoned by thesyrup of hydrocyanic acid, in the Bictre.In the case of the thief recorded by HUFE-LAND, the villous coat of the stomach wasred, and easily detached, as if in a gangre-nous condition. I have never seen such anappearance in this viscus. It is a curiousfact, that even when the odour of the acidhas been very perceptible in the stomach, ithas not been detected by the nicest tests ; atleast such was the case in instances openedby COULLON and others.
In the intestinal canal I have not beenable to detect any change, although, inHUFELANDS case, the mucous membranewas faintly reddened.The veins of the liver, the spleen, and the
kidneys, are generally gorged with black,fluid blood, which sometimes exhales astrong odour of the acid. The fluid state ofthe blood is not, however, constant; in theexperiments of COULLON, ITNER, and EM-MERT, on quadrupeds, the blood was coa, u-
lifted. In a case of poisoning with the oilof bitter almonds, recorded by MERTZDORFF,the colour of the bile was altered to blue ;but this is a solitary instance of such an ap-pearance.On opening the thorax the lungs are
found gorged with darh-coloured viscidblood, to a degree suflicient to make themere dependiug parts resemble liver. Insome instances, when the dose has beenvery large, the right cavities of the hearthave been gorged with blood, and the leftnearly empty, as if the circulation had beensuddenly arrested.
In the cranium the vessels of the brain andits membranes are also generally gorged,and the odour of the acid has been detectedin the ventricles.Throughout the whole body there is an
unusual turgescence of the venous system,with a corresponding emptiness of the ar-terial.
Now, let us suppose a case of suspectedpoisoning by hydrocyanic acid, or any ofthe substances containing it, which havebeen brought before you, and that your as-sistance is demanded to ascertain the fact.The first circumstance to which your atten-tion is to be directed is the history of thecase, the symptoms, and the post-mortemexamination of the body; the second act ofinquiry is to determine the fact of the hydro-cyanic acid being, really, the poisoningttgent.
If any of the poison remain it may bereadily recognised by its odour and taste ;the acridity is felt especially at the backpart of the throat, and this is caused asmuch by the odour of the acid as by swal-lowing it. The suspected fluid being thusrendered obvious by smelling and tasting,is then to be tested with several re-agents.
1. Add to the suspected fluid a few dropsof solution of potassa, the fluid will remaincolourless; then drop in a solution of mixedproto-sulphate, and per-sulphate of iron ; itforms, at first, a brownish precipitate, whichgradually acquires a greenish-blue tint,and, on the addition of a little acid, a deepPrussian blue is precipitated. The onlynicety in this process is to be certain thatthe solution of the sulphates of iron containa proto-sulphate, as the per-sulphate .loneproduces no precipitate of Prussian blue ;and, on adding sulphuric acid, the brownprecipitate is re-dissolved, but no bluecolour or precipitate is formed as when theproto-sulphate is employed.
2. Add to the supposed hydrocyanic acida few props of liquor potassae, and then somesolution of sulphate of copper; a yellowish-white precipitate will be thrown down, andwill become white on the addition of hydro-chloric acid. This is caused by the hydro-chloric acid dissolving some oxide of copperwhich is thrown down by the potassa.
The white precipitate is cyanide of copper,which is formed as a white powder, veryabundantly even when the hydrocyanic acidis in small quantity. According to M. LAS-SAIGNE it demonstrates the presence of theacid in 20.000 parts of water.
3. To the supposed hydrocyanic acid adda solution of nitrate of silver ; a white pre.cipitate is formed which is not soluhle innitric acid, at 60, but is soluble in thatacid at its boiling temperature: This dis-tinguishes this precipitate, the cyanide ofsilver, from chloride of silver. If the pre.cipitate be abundant, when dried and ex-posed to heat in a tube, it will evolve cya.nogen, which burns with a violet-colouredflame. One hundred parts of the driedcyanide correspond to rather more thantwenty-one of the acid, so that the quantityof the acid may be known. This test mayalso be thus employed:Put a drop ortwo drops of the suspected fluid, veryslightly acidulated with distilled vinegar,into a watch-glass, and immediately cover itwith a plate of glass, the under surface ofwhich, to the breadth of a pea, is moistenedwith a solution of nitrate of silver, formedby dissolving 1 gr. of the nitrate in 2,000grs. of distilled water. If the drop of thesolution of the nitrate remain transparent, noprussic acid is present ; if it become cloud-ed, or milky, that acid is present, provided,on placing it over a glass of ammonia, itbecome again clear, and that it retain, un-changed, its white colour when exposed tolight.
When hydrocyanic acid is mixed withwine, beer, coffee, milk, or other substances,it causes no change in their appearance,unless the mixtures have been kept for sometime, when it gives a deep-brown tinge tothem, owing to the decomposition of theacid.
In searching for hydrocyanic acid inmixed or compound fluids, if the quantityremaining in the glass or the cup be a fewdrops only, it may be tested with the watch-glass and nitrate of silver; but if it be ingreater quantity, or if we are examining thecontents of the stomach, the best method isto distil with a gentle heat, in a large retortplaced in a water-bath, and to which a re-ceiver is adapted by the interposition of avery long tube. The materials in the retortmust not be allowed to boil, and the re.ceiver must be kept cool with ice. The pro-duct is then to be collected, and tested inthe usual manner for hydrocyanic acid.
This method of proceeding is applicableto the substance of the stomach itself, theblood, and the secretions, but, in examiningthese, the process must not be delayedlonger than thirty or forty hours after thedeath of the poisoned person.
It is often of great importance to ascertainthe quantity of hydrocyanic acid present in
the fluid which has operated as a poison, making experiments with laurel-water,and nothing is more easy provided the mat- under the idea that the poison on this occa-ters to be examined contain no chlorides. sion was laurel-water, and, evidently, ima-It is eflected by simply precipitating the gined the taste; for, as the body was notfluid with nitrate of silver, collecting care- opened for two days after death, and was infully the precipitate, washing and drying it, a state of decomposition, it was not likelyand then weighing it accurately ; every 100 that the hydrocyanic acid, contained in thegrains of the dried cyanide of silver contain quantity of laurel-water administered to Sir20.33 of pure hydrocyanic acid. THEODOSIUS; would then have remained un-
decomposed in the stomach. Itl openingIf we have the oil of bitter almonds mix- bodies soon after death, however, this is an
ed with the contents of the stomach, or important point to attend to.other matters to examine, then the strong Nearly the same opinions respecting theodour of peach blossom at once leads us to contents of the bottle being laurel-water,the determination of the poison ; the same were also given by Mr. WILMER, Dr. Asae;process of distillation at a low temperature, Dr. PARSONS, Professor of Anatomy at Ox-and the same mode of testing the result, is ford; and they were all of opinion that fromrequired, as when we are operating upon the the fact of the smell of the laurel-water indiluted acid. The quantity of the acid in the bottle, and from the symptoms, Sir THE-the distilled water of bitter almonds, and in ODOSIUS had been poisoned by laurel-water.cherry laurel-water, may be ascertained by They based their opinion upon the effectssimply dropping in the nitrate of silver, as perceived in quadrupeds poisoned by lau-in the simple diluted acid. rel-water. The answer of Dr. PARSONS is
striking, in reference to his knowledge ofNow, let us take a case of actual poison- the poison being laurel-water. He was
ing by a substance containing hydrocyanic asked, " You collect that from the simila-acid, for instance, cherry laurel-water. This rity of the smell?" he replied, 11 We havewas the poison used for the murder of Sir nothing else to jolido7e from but the similarityTHEODOSIUS BOUGHTON, for which Captain of the smell." Nothing can more clearlyDONNELLAN was tried and convicted. The elucidate the great advantages which Medi-evidence on the trial, as far as concerned cal Jurisprudence owes to Chemistry thanthe condition of the body, and the draught this reply.supposed to have contained the poison was JOHN HuNTER gave his evidence in apainfully conflicting. It was proved, both manner calculated to throw some doubt onby Lady BOUGHTON and by others, that the the fact of the poisoning ; and although Idraught had a powerful odour of bitter think that the evidence generally bore outalmonds. She remarked, that when Sir the conviction, yet I cannot concur withTHEODOSIUS, her son, was taking the draught, Dr. CHRISTISONS remark, that Mr. HUNTERS" he observed that it smelt and tasted very evidence " does him very little credit." Inauseous, upon which I said, I think it will read it to you, prefacing the perusal bysmells very strongly like bitter almonds." remarking that the symptoms were, in everyDr. RATTRAY, who was examined as to the respect, those that have usually occurred inappearance presented by the body after cases of poisoning by laurel-water.death, was desired, in Court, to smell the " I dont wish to go into that; I put mybottle from which the draught had been question in a general way?-The wholepoured. His answer was, " I know the appearances upon the dissection explainliquid well; it is a distillation of laurel nothing but putrefaction.leaves, commonly called laurel-water." Dr. " You have been long in the habit of dis-RATTRAY, also, in reply to a question respect- secting human subjects ; I presume you haveing the smell of the contents of the stomach, dissected more than any man in Europe?-said, " One could not expect any smell, but I have dissected some thousands duringpartaking of that general putrefaction of the these thirty-three years.body; but I had a particular taste in my "Are those appearances you have heardmouth at that time, a kind of biting acrimony described such, iu your judgment, as areupon my tongue. And I have in all the ex- the result of putrefaction in dead subjects ?perimeatts I have made with laurel-water, -Entirely.always had the same taste, from breathing" Are the symptoms that appeared afterover the water, a biting upon my tongue, the medicine was given, such as necessarilyand sometimes a bitter taste upon the upper conclude that the person had taken poison?part of the fauces." Dr. RATTRAY very -Certainly not.properly, however, did not impute this taste Is any certain analogy to be drawn fromto anything but the ammoniacal salts evolv- the effects of any species of poison upon aned from the decomposing body. I have animal of the brute creation, to that it maymentioned it to show you, Gentlemen, the have upon a human subject?-As far as mynecessity of not permitting your imagina- experience goes, which is not a very con-tions to run away with your judgment on fined one, because I have poisoned somesuch occasions. Dr. RATTRAY had been thousands of animals, they are very nearly
the same ; opium,; for instance, will poison adog similar to a man; arsenic will havevery near the same effect upon a dog as itwould have, I take it for granted, upon aman ; I know something of the effects ofthem, and I believe their operations will benearly similar.
11 Are there not many things which killanimals almost instantaneously, that willhave no detrimental or noxious effect upona human subject; spirits, for instance, occurto me ?-I apprehend a great deal dependsupon the mode of experiment; no man is fitto make one but those who have made many,and paid considerable attention to all thecircumstances that relate to experiments;it is a common experiment which I believeseldom fails, and it is in the mouth of everybody, that a little brandy will kill a cat ;I have made the experiment, and have killedseveral cats, but it is a false experiment;in all those cases where it kills the cat, itkills the cat by getting into her lungs, notinto her stomach, because, if you convey thesame quantity of brandy, or three times asmuch, into the stomach, in such a way asthe lungs shall not be affected, the cat willnot die. Now, in those experiments thatare made by forcing an animal to drink,there are two operations going on ; one is arefusing the liquor by the animal, its kick-ing and working with its throat, to refuseit; the other is, a forcing the liquor uponthe animal, and there are very few opera-tions of that kind, but some of the liquorgets into the lungs. I have known it fromexperience.
" If you had been called upon to dissecta body, suspected to have died of poison,should you or not have thought it necessa-sary to have pursued your search throughthe guts ?-Certainly." Do you not apprehend that you would
have been more likely to receive informa-tion from thence than any other part of theframe ?-That is the track of the poison, andI should certainly have followed that trackthrough.
" Then, in your judgment, upon the ap-pearances the gentlemen have described, noinference can be drawn from thence thatSir Theodosius Boughton died of poison ?-Certainly not. It does not give the leastsuspicion.
" Mr. HOWORTH.Upon the symptomsimmediately produced, after the swallowingof that draught, I ask whether, in yourjudgment and opinion, that draught did notoccasion his death ?-I can only say, that itis a circumstance in favour of such anopinion.
That the draught was the occasion ofhis death?No; because the symptoms af-terwards are those of a man dying who wasbefore in perfect health ; a man dying of anepilepsy or apoplexy, the symptoms wouldgive one those general ideas.
" Then you decline giving any opinionupon the subject?I dont form any opinionto myself; I cannot form an opinion, becauseI can conceive if he had taken a draught ofpoison it arose from that; I can conceive itmight arise from other causes.
" If you are at all acquainted with theeffects and operations of distilled laurel.water, whether the having swallowed adraught of that would not have producedthe symptoms described ?-I should supposeit would; I can only say this of the experi.ments I have made of laurel-water uponanimals, it has not been near so quick;I have injected laurel-water directly intothe blood of dogs, and they have notdied; I have thrown laurel-water, withprecaution, into the stomach, and it neverproduced so quick an effect with me as de.scribed by those gentlemen.
11 But you admit that laurel-water wouldhave produced symptoms such as have beendescribed?-I can conceive it might."Mr. NEWNHAM.Would not an apoplexy
or an epilepsy, if it had seized Sir Theodo.sius Boughton at this time, though he hadtaken no physic at all, have produced simi-lar symptoms too ?-Certainly."
Treatment.Hydrocyanic Acid.The treatment of poisoning by hydrocy.
anic acid and its compounds is not satis-factory, owing to the rapid action of thepoison. When our assistance is demanded,and we arrive in time, ammonia and brandyare the chief remedies. Bleeding has beenproposed, but ORFILA, who tried it, foundit of no use. A much more certain remedyis the affusion of cold water on the head andspine. Mr. SIMEON, apothecary to the Hos-pital of St. Louis, proposed chlorine. It wastried before by M. COULLON without anyadvantage.
Communication of Animal Poisons to Man.- A strong peasant at Cronstadt struck herfore-finger, which was free from injury, intothe throat of a goose which had droppeddown suddenly, (unfortunately not examin-ed accurately), in order to convince herselfif any foreign body was choking the animal.Soon after this the woman felt violent dart-ing pains in the finger, which soon :extendedover the whole hand ; very great swellingalso soon occurred. Two days after thisoccurrence, the right arm was considerablyswollen, the index finger enormously, theskin bluish red, and very violent pangs ex-tended to the arm-pit. Her general healthwas at the same time much affected. Thesurgeon compared the patient with thosepersons who have been bitten by the viper.With, internally, musk, and, externally, thecompound spirit of angelica, the woman gotperfectly well.