Volume 40, Issue 1 (January 1995)
Homicide Facilitated by Inhalation of Chloroform
Three related homicides in which each decedent had significant concentrations of chloroform in blood, fat, brain and/or liver are described. The tissue concentrations of chloroform in one of three decedents were within reported lethal ranges. The concentrations in the remaining two decedents were less than lethal but were well above blood levels in nonoccupationally exposed, healthy subjects. The cause of death in one decedent with sublethal chloroform concentrations was suffocation; the cause of death in the other decedent could not be determined with certainty. The manner of death in each case was homicide. Through a review of the literature the authors discuss the history of chloroform as an inhalation anesthetic and the history of chloroform as an agent of abuse, suicide, assault, and homicide. Blood and/or tissue concentrations of chloroform in nonoccupationally exposed, healthy subjects and victims of suicide or homicide from previous reports are compared and contrasted with the amounts in blood and/or tissue in the three subjects described in this study. The authors conclude that, in addition to a direct lethal effect, chloroform may be used to incapacitate a victim of assault who then dies by another cause.