Drug-related deaths with evidences of body packing: Two case reports and medico-legal issues

Recent Periodical Literature:  by Viktor Naumovski

This article was a case study examining the circumstances and medico-legal issues of deaths resulting from drugs packed in the body. Body packing refers to transporting drugs by putting them in different packaging and storing them in the gastrointestinal tract, often being used for the transportation of cocaine and heroin. Some of the common ways of wrapping these substances include capsules made of cellophane, latex, rubber cots, plastic bags, wax, and adhesive tape. The quality of these packaging methods have increased in recent years but when they rupture they result in the death of the carrier due to the high levels of toxicity being introduced to their system. Two different cases were analyzed that included the carrying of drug packages within the gastrointestinal tract.

One case included the death of a man while on a cruise ship starting in Western Europe where the cause of death was identified from the noting of oval shaped radio-opacities found in the stomach and gastrointestinal tract that were seen under an X-ray. The rupture of the packages resulted in congestions of cerebral vessels and the lungs and quantitative analysis through GC-MS showed the presence of morphine and its metabolite 6-MAM in bile and gastric content. The second case was the death of a man traveling from North Africa by airplane found in a hotel bathroom, and an autopsy showed little effect on the heart, liver and kidneys while the lungs were congested. Using GC-MS to test the blood and urine of the man showed positive results for cocaine and benzodiazepine. The two cases had different packaging of drugs, the first consisting of a condom and layers of plastic film while the second case had red wax, cellophane and latex, with varying levels of damage. These cases showed the different composition of packaging that is being used to transport substances, and worked to identify the possible conflicts in and out of hospital care for suspected drug smugglers as the intermediate between ensuring safe medical care of a smuggler and trying to legally prove the presence of smuggled substances has yet to be effectively found.

Cappelletti, Simone, Mariarosaria Aromatario, Edoardo Bottoni, Paola Antonella Fiore, Marco Straccamore, Federica Umani Ronchi, Guido Maria De Mari, and Costantino Ciallella. “Drug-related Deaths with Evidences of Body Packing: Two Case Reports and Medico-legal Issues.” Legal Medicine 20 (2016): 23-26. Web.
doi:10.1016/j.legalmed.2016.03.007  

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