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August 14, 1987

Sodium Phosphate Enemas: How to Kill Cats, Cause Cardiac Arrest, and Cure Eye Rolling at Stanford

JAMA. 1987;258(6):782-783. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03400060058025

To the Editor.—  The article by Martin et al1 discussing the adverse effects of sodium phosphate enemas caught my attention because it gives credence to an observation made by a patient's wife several years ago, when I was a resident.

Report of a Case.—  It was early in the morning when the paramedics brought in a middle-aged man complaining of weakness. Evidently the patient had been due to come in to the hospital that very morning for some sort of a procedure and had suddenly become ill. When he was brought in he was having seizures, which were followed by asystolic cardiac arrest. Not far behind him was his wife, holding an empty sodium phosphate enema bottle and yelling, "This killed him, Doctor!" She told us that he was due to have a barium enema examination that morning and had prepared for it by giving himself two separate enemas. During