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Original Contributions
March 21, 1964

Poison and the Pathologist

Author Affiliations


Dr. Adelson is pathologist and chief deputy coroner, Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office, and associate professor of forensic pathology, Department of Pathology, Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

JAMA. 1964;187(12):918-920. doi:10.1001/jama.1964.03060250036008

The pathologist participating in the investigation of a known or alleged poisoning fatality has a multifaceted responsibility. He must search for and recognize anatomic changes produced by the toxic substance, while recalling that many poisons produce no organic injury even when they are present in lethal concentration. He should always preserve sufficient quantities of body fluids, excreta, and viscera in properly labelled containers so that the chemical analyst has adequate material for all possibilities. Frequent consultation with the toxicologist is essential in the interest of expediting the search for the lethal chemical. Ultimately it falls upon the pathologist to establish the cause of death in the light of all the anatomic and chemical findings.