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Evidence Of Poisoning

It may be inferred that poison has been taken from consideration of the

following factors: Symptoms and post-mortem appearances, experiments on

animals, chemical analysis, and the conduct of suspected persons.

1. Symptoms in poisoning usually come on suddenly, when the patient is

in good health, and soon after taking a meal, drink, or medicine. Many

diseases, however, come on suddenly, and in cases of slow poisoning t

invasion of the symptoms may be gradual.

2. Post-Mortem Appearances.--These in many poisons and classes of

poisons are characteristic and unmistakable. The post-mortem appearances

peculiar to the various poisons will be described in due course.

3. Experiments on Animals.--These may be of value, but are not always


4. Chemical Analysis.--This is one of the most important forms of

evidence, as a demonstration of the actual presence of a poison in the

body carries immense weight. The poison may be discovered in the living

person by testing the urine, the blood abstracted by bleeding, or the

serum of a blister. In the dead body it may be found in the blood,

muscles, viscera--especially the liver--and secretions. Its discovery in

these cases must be taken as conclusive evidence of administration. If,

however, it be found only in substances rejected or voided from the

body, the evidence is not so conclusive, as it may be contended that the

poison was introduced into or formed in the material examined after its

rejection from the body, or if the quantity be very minute it will be

argued that it is not sufficient to cause death. A poison may not be

detected in the body, owing to defective methods, smallness of the dose

required to cause death, or to its ejection by vomiting or its

elimination by the excretions.

5. Conduct of Suspected Persons.--A prisoner may be proved to have

purchased poison, to have made a study of the properties and effects of

poison, to have concocted medicines or prepared food for the deceased,

to have made himself the sole attendant of the deceased, to have placed

obstacles in the way of obtaining proper medical assistance, or to have

removed substances which might have been examined.