Volume 36, Issue 3 (May 1991)
Application of Forensic Toxicology to the Problem of Domestic Violence
The role of the forensic toxicologist in helping to determine causes of death or in aiding in the resolution of “driving under the influence” or similar cases is well known and clearly understood. Less clearly defined is the position of the forensic toxicologist vis-à-vis other socially significant problems. However, as the 21st century approaches, it is worth considering how forensic toxicology can help in unraveling some of these problems.
The problem of violence between intimates—that is, domestic violence—is a social problem in which it has been long felt that alcohol has played a part. Until now, though, no carefully controlled toxicological studies have been conducted to substantiate this or to determine whether other drug use is associated with domestic violence.
At the San Francisco Medical Examiner's Office, toxicological data from both the victim and the suspect in 20 cases of domestic violence that ended in homicide have been gathered. It was found that alcohol or other drugs or a combination of these factors was invariably present in the suspect, the victim, or both.
The implications of these results and how they can be used to develop a toxicological strategy to help reduce the most serious consequences of domestic violence are presented.