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  • Betsey Ann Ward (1832 - 1916)
    Death Certificate
  • after Hans Holbein the Younger. Public domain.
    St. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (1469 - 1535)
    the same as: John Fisher, II [" ]John Fisher (c. 19 October 1469 – 22 June 1535), venerated by Roman Catholics as Saint John Fisher, was an English Catholic bishop and theologian. Fisher was also an ac...
  • Richard Roose (b. - 1531)
    In early 1531, Richard Roose (also Richard Rouse, Richard Cooke) was accused of poisoning members of the household of John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester for which he was subsequently boiled alive. Alth...
  • Fumimaro Konoe (1891 - 1945)
    Prince Fumimaro Konoe (Japanese: 近衞 文麿, Hepburn: Konoe Fumimaro, often Konoye, 12 October 1891 – 16 December 1945) was a Japanese politician and prime minister. During his tenure, he presided over th...
  • Otis S. Fouch (1860 - 1905)

Please add profiles of people who have died by poisoning to this project.

Death by Poison is the result of acute (on one occasion) or chronic (long term) exposure to poisonous substances including biological, human-made (e.g. mustard gas), animal venoms, etc. The effects of poisoning range from short-term illness to brain damage, coma, and death.

Poisoning is injury or death due to swallowing, inhaling, touching or injecting various drugs, chemicals, venoms or gases.

  • Many substances — such as drugs and carbon monoxide — are poisonous only in higher concentrations or dosages. And others — such as cleaners — are dangerous only if ingested.
  • Children are particularly sensitive to even small amounts of certain drugs and chemicals.
  • Poisoning is the harmful effect that occurs when a toxic substance is swallowed, is inhaled, or comes in contact with the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes, such as those of the mouth or nose.

Accidental poisoning

Poisoning is the most common cause of nonfatal accidents in the home. Young children, because of curiosity and a tendency to explore, are particularly vulnerable to accidental poisoning in the home, as are older people, often due to confusion about their drugs. Because children often share found pills and substances, siblings and playmates may also have been poisoned. Also vulnerable to accidental poisoning are hospitalized people (by drug errors) and industrial workers (by exposure to toxic chemicals).

Deliberate poisoning

Poisoning may also be a deliberate attempt to commit murder or suicide. Most adults who attempt suicide by poisoning take more than one drug and also consume alcohol. Poisoning may be used to disable a person (for example, to rape or rob them). Rarely, parents with a psychiatric disorder poison their children to cause illness and thus gain medical attention

Acute poisoning is exposure to a poison on one occasion or during a short period of time. Symptoms develop in close relation to the degree of exposure. Absorption of a poison is necessary for systemic poisoning (that is, in the blood throughout the body). In contrast, substances that destroy tissue but do not absorb, such as lye, are classified as corrosives rather than poisons.

Chronic poisoning is long-term repeated or continuous exposure to a poison where symptoms do not occur immediately or after each exposure. The patient gradually becomes ill, or becomes ill after a long latent period.

Contact or absorption of poisons can cause rapid death or impairment. Agents that act on the nervous system can paralyze in seconds or less, and include both biologically derived neurotoxins and so-called nerve gases, which may be synthesized for warfare or industry.

Inhaled or ingested cyanide, used as a method of execution in gas chambers, almost instantly starves the body of energy by inhibiting the enzymes in mitochondria that make ATP. Intravenous injection of an unnaturally high concentration of potassium chloride, such as in the execution of prisoners in parts of the United States, quickly stops the heart by eliminating the cell potential necessary for muscle contraction.

What causes poisoning?

There are a number of substances that are harmful and can cause poisoning. Some include the following:

  • Household products and personal care products, like nail polish remover and mouthwash, which is harmful to children
  • Cleaning products, detergents and bleach
  • Paint thinner
  • Pesticides and bug spray
  • Lawn chemicals, such as herbicides, fertilizers, and fungicides
  • Metals, such as lead
  • Mercury, which can be found in old thermometers and batteries
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medicines when combined or taken the wrong way
  • Illegal drugs
  • Carbon monoxide gas
  • Spoiled food
    • Poorly prepared or cooked food, and food that's gone moldy or been contaminated with bacteria from raw meat (food poisoning)
    • Drinking water contaminated by agricultural or industrial chemicals
  • Plants, such as some mushrooms, poison ivy and poison oak
  • Venom from certain snakes and insects
    • Snakes and insects, such as wasps and bees, are not poisonous, but their bites or stings can contain venom (toxin).
  • Alcohol, if an excessive amount is consumed over a short period of time (alcohol poisoning)
  • Medicines prescribed for pets

When to suspect poisoning

Poisoning signs and symptoms can mimic other conditions, such as seizure, alcohol intoxication, stroke and insulin reaction. Signs and symptoms of poisoning may include:

  • Burns or redness around the mouth and lips
  • Breath that smells like chemicals, such as gasoline or paint thinner
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion or other altered mental status

Resources & additional reading:

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