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independently of chemical action. This led me at first to suppose, that when arsenic has passed into the circulation, death is the consequence, not so much of the poison disturbing the functions of any particular organ, as of its destroying at once the vitality of every part of the system. The following circumstances, however, seem to show that this opinion is erroneous. In an animal under the full influence of arsenic, even to the instant of death, some of the secretions, as those of the kidneys, stomach, and intestines, continue to take place in large quantity; and the muscles are capable of being excited, after death, to distinct and powerful contractions by means of the Voltaic battery.
Experiment 3. Seven grains of the white oxide of arsenic were applied to a wound in the back of a rabbit.
In a few minutes he was languid, and the respirations were small and frequent. The pulse was feeble, and after a little time could not be felt. The hind legs became paralysed.* He grew insensible, and lay motionless, but with occasional convulsions. At the end of fifty-three minutes from the time of the arsenic being applied, he was apparently dead; but on opening the thorax, the heart was found still acting, though very slowly and feebly. A tube was introduced into the trachea, and the lungs were artificially inflated; but this appeared
• I have observed, that where the functions of the brain are disturbed, paralysis first takes place in the muscles of the hind legs; afterwards in those of the trunk and fore legs; and last of all in the muscles of the ears and face. These facts seem to show that the influence of the brain, like that of the heart, is not propagated with the same facility to the distant as to the near organs; and this is further confirmed by cases of disease which occasionally occur, in which, although the paralysis is confined to the lower half of the body, the morbid appearances met with on dissection are entirely confined to the brain.
to have no effect in prolonging the heart's action. On dissection, the inner membrane of the stomach was found slightly inflamed.
Experiment 4. Two drams of arsenic acid dissolved in six ounces of water were injected into the stomach of a dog, by means of a tube of elastic gum, passed down the oesophagus. In three minutes he vomited a small quantity of mucus, and this occurred again several times. The pulse became less frequent, and occasionally intermitted. At the end of thirty-five minutes the hind legs were paralysed, and he lay in a half sensible state. At the end of forty-five minutes. he was less sensible; the pupils of the eyes were dilated; the pulse had fallen from 140 to 70 in a minute, and the intermissions were frequent. After this, he became quite insensible; convulsions took place, and at the end of fifty minutes, from the beginning of the experiment, he died. On opening the thorax, immediately after death, tremulous contractions of the heart were observed; but not sufficient to maintain the circulation. The stomach and intestines contained a large quantity of mucous fluid, and their internal membrane was highly inflamed.
These experiments were repeated, and the results, in all essential circumstances, were the same. The symptoms produced were, 1, paralysis of the hind legs, and afterwards of the other parts of the body; convulsions; dilatation of the pupils of the eyes; insensibility; all of which indicate disturbance of the functions of the brain: 2, a feeble, slow, intermitting pulse, indicating disturbance of the functions of the heart. Where the heart has continued to act after apparent death, I have never, in any one instance, been able to prolong its action by means of artificial respiration. 3, pain in
the region of the abdomen; preternatural secretion of mucus from the alimentary canal; sickness and vomiting in those animals, which are capable of vomiting; symptoms which arise from the action of the poison on the stomach and intestines. There is no difference in the effects of arsenic, whether it is employed in the form of white oxide, or of arsenic acid, except that the latter is a more active preparation. When arsenic is applied to a wound, the symptoms take place sooner than when it is given internally; but their nature is the same.
The symptoms produced by arsenic may be referred to the influence of the poison on the nervous system, the heart,* and the alimentary canal. As of these the two former only are concerned in those functions, which are directly necessary to life, and as the alimentary canal is often affected only in a slight degree, we must consider the affection of the heart and nervous system as being the immediate cause of death.
In every experiment which I have made with arsenic, there were evident marks of the influence of the poison on all the organs which have been mentioned; but they were not in all cases affected in the same relative degree. In the dog, the affection of the heart appeared to predominate over that of the
When I say that a poison acts on the heart, I do not mean to imply that it necessarily must act directly on the muscular fibres of that organ. It is highly probable, that the heart is affected only through the medium of its nerves; but the affection of the heart is so far independent of the affection of the nervous system generally, that the circulation may cease although the functions of the brain are not suspended, and the functions of the brain may be wholly suspended without the circulation being at all disturbed. In proof of the first of these propositions, I may refer to my former experiments on the upas antiar, in which the sensibility of the animal continued to the very instant of death; and respiration, which is under the influence of the brain, continued even after the heart had ceased to act. In proof of the second, I may refer, among many others, to the experiments detailed in the Croonian Lecture for 1810.
brain, and on examining the thorax, immediately after death, this organ was found to have ceased acting, and in a distended state. In the rabbit, the affection of the brain appeared to predominate over that of the heart, and the latter was usually found acting slowly and feebly, after the functions of the brain had entirely ceased. In the rabbit, the effects of the arsenic on the stomach and intestines were usually less than in carnivorous animals.
The action of arsenic on the system is less simple than that of the majority of vegetable poisons. As it acts on different organs, it occasions different orders of symptoms, and as the affection of one or another organ predominates, so there is some variety in the symptoms produced even in individual animals of the same species.
In animals killed by arsenic the blood is usually found fluid in the heart and vessels after death; but otherwise all the morbid appearances met with on dissection are confined to the stomach and intestines. As this is the case, and as the affection of these organs occasions remarkable symptoms, it may be right to mention the result of my observations on this subject.
In many cases where death takes place, there is only a very slight degree of inflammation of the alimentary canal: in other cases the inflammation is considerable. It generally begins very soon after the poison is administered, and appears greater or less according to the time which elapses before the animal dies. Under the same circumstances, it is less in graminivorous than in carnivorous animals. The inflammation is greatest in the stomach and intestines; but it usually extends also over the whole intestine. I have never observed inflam
mation of the oesophagus. The inflammation is greater in degree, and more speedy in taking place, when arsenic is applied to a wound, than when it is taken into the stomach. The inflamed parts are in general universally red, at other times they are red only in spots. The principal vessels leading to the stomach and intestines are turgid with blood; but the inflammation is usually confined to the mucous membrane of these viscera, which assumes a florid red colour, becomes soft and pulpy, and is separable without much difficulty from the cellular coat, which has its natural appearance. In some instances there are small spots of extravasated blood on the inner surface of the mucous membrane, or between it and the cellular coat, and this occurs independently of vomiting. I have never, in any of my experiments, found ulceration or sloughing of the stomach or intestine; but if the animal survives for a certain length of time, after the inflammation has begun, it is reasonable to conclude that it may terminate in one or other of these ways.
I am diposed to believe that sloughing is very seldom, if ever, the direct consequence of the application of arsenic to the stomach or intestines. Arsenic applied to an ulcer will occasion a slough; but its action in doing this is very slow. When I have applied the white oxide of arsenic to a wound, though the animal has sometimes lived three or four hours afterwards, and though violent inflammation has taken place in the stomach and intestines, I have never seen any preternatural appearance in the part to which it was applied, except a slight effusion of serum into the cellular membrane. Arsenic speedily. produces a very copious secretion of mucus and watery flud from the stomach and intestines, which separates it from actual