In order to determine whether blood barbiturate levels could be used to ascertain that death had been caused by barbiturate overdose, samples of blood from 128 subjects of coroners' necropsies were examined for barbiturate content. Sixty of these were well authenticated cases of barbiturate overdosage, and barbiturates were implicated, together with other factors such as alcohol and carbon monoxide, in a further 16 cases. The remaining 52 cases were of an eliminatory nature, 10 of which had low barbiturate blood levels considered to be within the therapeutic range.
The results indicate that when the accepted levels producing loss of consciousness are exceeded, and maintained, death will ensue if treatment is not given. These results may be of value in assessing findings in necropsies requested by the coroner, and are in no way applicable to the living patient in whom it is well established that recovery from higher blood levels may take place if adequate treatment is available.
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