Ethylene glycol, murder, and the media

August 30, 2011, 1:24 pm

★★½☆☆

Intentional Ethylene Glycol Poisoning Increase after Media Coverage of Antifreeze Murders. Morgan BW et al. West J Emerg Med 2011 Jul;12:296-299.

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This article opens with details of a murder case that could have come straight from the pages of a novel:

In January 2001, a Forsyth County, Georgia, firefighter suddenly died. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation ruled the firefighter died from ethylene glycol (EG) poisoning. At the time of his death, the firefighter was living with a 911 operator named Lynn Turner. In 1995, Mrs. Turner’s husband, a Cobb County, Georgia, police officer, also had died unexpectedly. After the firefighter’s death, the police officer’s body was exhumed. Ultimately the Cobb County Medical Examiner changed his cause of death from cardiac dysrhythmia to EG poisoning. In November 2002, Lynn Turner was charged with murder.

In 2004, Lynn Turner’s trial for murdering her husband received enormous media attention, especially in Georgia.  This paper retrospectively reviewed the database of the Georgia Poison Center to determine the incidence of EG poisoning from the time just before the firefighter’s death in 2001 to the period just after the first murder trial in 2004.

Not surprisingly, they found that the incidence of intentional ethylene glycol exposures (both malicious and suicidal) increased during this period , presumably from “copycat” events and increased awareness from media coverage that antifreeze is a lethal poison. The incidence of inadvertent EG exposure did not change The authors conclude that poison centers should be aware of the effects of intense media coverage of toxicology cases on the public.  I would think that most already are.

In August 2010, Lynn Turner died in prison:

Autopsy determined that the cause of death was beta-blocker toxicity. Turner had been on propranolol for hypertension.

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