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DRUGS AND SUDDEN DEATH

Drummer, Olaf H.

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Pathology - Journal of the RCPA: 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue - p S27
  • Free

Toxicology assists in the determination of the cause of death but is also very useful when use of non‐prescribed drugs may lead to behavioural changes precipitating aggressive or violent outcomes (e.g., benzodiazepines, amphetamines, etc). Toxicology can also assist in establishing access to medications to detect underlying disease (e.g., epilepsy, heart disease or depression) and compliance to medication; effectively becoming therapeutic drug monitoring. In order to achieve the best result an appropriate choice of specimen is required and where possible an ante‐mortem specimen taken in hospital to test a sample closer to the cause of the hospitalisation and to avoid the complications of post‐mortem redistribution. Interpretation of any toxicology data can only occur when the context of the case is fully known and medical records are available including access to medications and other substances. Increasingly, speedy turn‐around of cases can facilitate an investigation and can inform the medical investigator and the coroner as to the need, or otherwise, for an autopsy, particularly if drugs are considered to have played a role (directly or indirectly) in the death. The presentation will explore these developments and provide delegates with information on how toxicologists can best assist pathologists in death investigations.

© 2010 Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia