FRIDAY, February 23, 2024
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Health ministry clarifies autopsy guidelines after cyanide deaths

Health ministry clarifies autopsy guidelines after cyanide deaths

The Ministry of Public Health has clarified its guidelines for performing autopsies, following the high-profile investigation of a suspect accused of using cyanide to murder numerous people.

Police investigators have the authority to order full autopsies in cases where the cause of death has not been determined, ministry spokesperson Dr Rungreung Kitpati said on Saturday.

Family members of the deceased will not be charged for the autopsies, while toxicology analysis can be performed by the ministry’s Department of Medical Sciences, Rungreung said.

He made the announcement while discussing the case of a suspect being investigated for possible involvement in at least 20 suspicious deaths over the past three years. Police say the suspect used cyanide to kill her alleged victims.
Rungreung said that after a medical doctor examines a body at a crime scene, investigating police officers have the authority to decide whether an autopsy is necessary. There are, however, several conditions, including the inability of the doctor to determine the cause of death and that the possible cause falls into one of five categories: suicide, homicide, animal attack, accidental, or uncertain.

An autopsy will not be conducted if family members of the deceased oppose one and investigating officers do not object to their request, Rungreung said.

He also said the Medical Science Department can test for traces of cyanide in some samples taken from a deceased person’s stomach, foods, or suspicious substances within five to seven working days. Testing for traces of cyanide in urine samples takes 5-10 business days, while testing of blood samples takes 22-30 working days, he said.
 

Cyanide is a highly toxic chemical that comes in solid and gas forms. The solid form is known as sodium cyanide, or potassium cyanide, while the gas form is called hydrogen cyanide. When cyanide enters the body, it can inhibit cell function and cause oxygen deprivation, leading to low blood pressure, heart and blood vessel damage, seizures, loss of consciousness, and the slowing or cessation of breathing.

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