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Duty Of Practitioner In Supposed Case Of Poisoning

If called to a case supposed or suspected to be one of poisoning, the

medical man has two duties to perform: To save the patient's life, and

to place himself in a position to give evidence if called on to do so.

If life is extinct, his duty is a simple one. He should make inquiries

as to symptoms, and time at which food or medicine was last taken. He

should take possession of any food, medicine, vomited matter, urine, or

> fæces, in the room, and should seal them up in clean vessels for

examination. He should notice the position and temperature of the body,

the condition of rigor mortis, marks of violence, appearance of lips and

mouth. He should not make a post-mortem examination without an order in

writing from the coroner. In making a post-mortem examination, the

alimentary canal should be removed and preserved for further

investigation. A double ligature should be passed round the oesophagus,

and also round the duodenum a few inches below the pylorus. The gut and

the gullet being cut across between these ligatures, the stomach may be

removed entire without spilling its contents. The intestines may be

removed in a similar way, and the whole or a portion of the liver should

be preserved. These should all be put in separate jars without any

preservative fluid, tied up, sealed, labelled, and initialled. All

observations should be at once committed to writing, or they will not be

admitted by the court for the purpose of refreshing the memory whilst

giving evidence. If the medical practitioner is in doubt on any point,

he should obtain technical assistance from someone who has paid

attention to the subject.

In a case of attempted suicide by poisoning, is it the duty of the

doctor to inform the police? He would be unwise to do so. He had much

better stick to his own business, and not act as an amateur detective.