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Journal Article


Singer PP, Jones GR, Bannach BG, Denmark L. J. Forensic Sci. 2007; 52(4): 992-994.


Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Edmonton, AB, Canada.


(Copyright © 2007, American Society for Testing and Materials, Publisher John Wiley and Sons)






Two unusual cases of suicidal overdose of acetaminophen (paracetamol) without the usual extensive centrilobular necrosis of the liver are reported. Both cases were subjected to comprehensive drug screening by immunoassay, and a combination of gas chromatography with mass spectrometry, nitrogen detection, and electron capture detection. Acetaminophen was detected in both cases. No other drugs were detected in case #1, and only a small amount of olanzapine (<0.1 mg/L) was detected in case #2. No anatomical cause of death was identified in either case. If untreated, the normal outcome of a large acetaminophen overdose would be massive hepatic necrosis with delayed death and low blood and tissue acetaminophen concentrations. In contrast, particularly high postmortem acetaminophen concentrations were measured in both our cases with little hepatic tissue damage. For case #1, femoral blood acetaminophen 1280 mg/L, vitreous 878 mg/L, and liver 729 mg/kg; in case #2, cardiac blood 1220 mg/L, vitreous 779 mg/L, liver 3260 mg/kg, and gastric 11,500 mg/500 g. Acetaminophen was measured using high performance liquid chromatography with UV detection (254 nm) using 3-hydroxyacetanilide as the internal standard. The very high concentrations of acetaminophen is these cases but relatively little hepatic damage suggests an alternative, possibly cardiac, mechanism of death.

Language: en


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