Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why do tox reports take so long?

The music was all.
I am not even sure why it's so important to know exactly what killed Prince. I guess because it's what we do in this country--tie up loose ends. And maybe some people want it to be "his" fault somehow.

We have all heard it will be weeks until we know--lacking any damage to his body that would indicate foul play. His remains have already been cremated.

But we have all heard we must wait another few weeks for a finding. Maybe as long as six weeks. Why does it take so long?

According to the College of American Pathologists, blood, tissue, and if possible, urine, samples are taken from multiple areas in the body (concentration of drugs can vary throughout the body).

Tissues come from the liver, brain, kidney, and the eyes. Stomach contents are also tested.

Some toxicology testing may be done during the autopsy--or the samples are turned over to an accreditied lab--or both.

Pathologists, toxicologists, and chemists collaborate.

The first tests are screens for drugs in the blood or urine. They are looking for antibodies to opiates, amphetamines, marijuana, alcohol, and barbiturates.

If a drug is flagged--tests are repeated. If this confirms it, a second, more sophisticated test is done.

The presence of multiple drugs, or the emergence of a second drug during this follow-on testing, requires more tests. Are the levels lethal and likely the cause of death? More tests.

Only 20% of deaths are followed by an autopsy--but of course, this one was.

Still, this is not detracting from the outpouring of love and respect for Prince. Nor should it.

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