Tags:
  1. Davi_Alan
    Offline

    Davi_Alan Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0

    Medical Opinion Needed for My Story

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Davi_Alan, Feb 10, 2011.

    Hi Everybody,

    Sorry if this is not placed in the right thread in the first place. I took a look at each one's description and I thought this might be the most appropriate place to place my question. Uh, so I finished a short story last week and I've been showing around to some of my ex-language arts teachers, friends who have a degree in Literature, etc. I've got good reviews from everybody that I've showed it to, and so I want to try getting it published. The story is already free of unnecessary sentences, grammar mistakes, etc. What I need help with in order to make my story more realistic would be some medical expertise from someone who understands about this.
    So, in my story (which takes place in Boston of 1933) I got this crazy wife who's so jealous of her husband that she slowly kills their 9 year old son by poisoning the boy's food. She causes the child to slowly suffer from vomit fits. And in my story, the family doctor (I believe that in 1933, it was still common to have a family doctor right?) mistakes the child's symptoms for common things like eating a spoiled fruit, etc. So in the story, the family doctor medicates the boy and the symptons go away. But they return soon enough becuase she keeps adding this substance which causes the vomiting fits, until the boy looses weight, gets feverish, pale and dies. In the story, she also kills one of the housemaids by poising her drink because she spied on her while she was placing the substance which caused the boy to become sick. And in my story, because in 1933 autopsy was still something not done to everybody (I did a research on that), I made it so that the coroners mistook her death for a massive heart attack. However, as the husband suspects his wife's ways, he orders that a detective investigate her and that another autopsy be performed on the boy and the maid. So, another autopsy is performed and they found in both of the victims blood traces of poisonous substances.

    So, here's what I'd like to know:

    1) What would be a substance (it can be an herb, chemical, or a medication from that time) that would slowly cause vomiting fits over a period of time? You know, something that would not kill immediately, but cause those vomiting fits to happen? I did not make that clear in my story, and would in order to add more realism to it.

    2)What would be a poison that could cause a massive heart attack in the maid? In my story, the wife carries a ring with a secret compartment where she hides the poison (which in my story I describe it as a white powder/dust, I don't give a name to it).

    3)Would you say that a careless autopsy could de done back in 1933 in order that the coroner mistake the poisoning for a heart attack? And what are the chances that bodies be dug up in 1933 for blood testing?

    So, these are my questions. I'd greatly appreciate some feedback before I send this story over to a literary magazine. And one more thing, would you say that even if what I described here is unlikely to have happened in 1933, would it be bad-fiction to make it so? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    1) Bug or rat poison would be the most commonly available poison at that time. Low doses would make a person very ill.

    2) You'll have to look this up on your own.

    3) Coroners were generally called in for an autopsy if a person died suddenly or of unnatural/unlikely causes. Depending on the maid's age, having a heart attack might appear unusual.

    Having the maid fall down some stairs and break her neck 'accidentally' would draw less attention.

    Blood tests at that time were mostly done on couples waiting to be married. The blood tests checked for syphilis and/or rubella. This was to prevent the infection from spreading to others, as well as to prevent damage to an unborn fetus.

    A corpse being dug up after being burried then was very unlikely.

    Medical technology then was not very advanced. Blood typing was only discovered around 1901. Even today, a coroner has to wait a month or two to get the results back from a lab after testing blood for drugs/poison. Back then, if they even tested blood for poison, they would need to know exactly what they were looking for to find it.

    Keep in mind, a lot of poisons do show their presence in ways beside vomitting and making a person ill. Some have odd effects on the skin and hair. There is even a type of poison that causes a thin white line to develop across the fingernails. You just have to do some research.
     
  3. Davi_Alan
    Offline

    Davi_Alan Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Ellipse,

    Thank you so much for your help. About question number 3, in my story the maid that is poisoned is somewhat old, and the doctors do not look further into the causes of her death because it was already known by the family that the maid suffered from heart problems. That's why I have the wife use a poison that would cause a massive heart attack, see?
    But you see, there's another maid in a my story, a much younger maid, who accidently tells the husband that she saw the wife mix something in the other maid's drink. It is only after that the he starts to suspect his wife. The younger maid is pushed "accidently" from the stairs later on when the wife discovers that she told her husband that. It works wonderfully doesn't it?
    Well, so here are two more questions then, if you'll bear with me.

    1) So, if digging up a body for blood testing was unlikely to have happened back then, I can cut that out. There is another passage in my story where the maid who came to substitute the other one who was poisoned finds the deceased maid's diary. And in her diary, just two days before she was poisoned by the wife, she writes that she has seen her place "a strange substance" in the child's soup. Would say that if digging a body was unlikely, that the passage for the diary would suffice to serve as evidence that the wife had poisoned both child and maid? Or -
    2) You said that if at 1933 they dug for a body for blood testing they would have to know what they were looking for. Would say the passage from the diary would suffice to know that they were supposedly looking for traces of poison in the blood?

    Thank you so much for your help Ellipse. Uh, about other changes in a person's complexion, I also describe in my story that during the child's period of "illness" the child's skin becomes very pale, revealing the veins. I don't know if rat poison would cause that, or what other effects it would change in a person's complexion. But if you don't mind telling me, I'd greatly appreciate it. I know that sounds lazy, but I'll do my part and research it in the meantime as well.
     
  4. PurpleCandle
    Offline

    PurpleCandle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    NC
    Digging up a body after burial for blood tests does not make sense to me because the funeral home would have drained all of the blood. ???

    Might I suggest a poison (Arsenic) that would leave physical signs, such as white fingernails that people could see after burial.

    Also another poison to mention is Cyanide as it can mimic a heart attack.
     
  5. Davi_Alan
    Offline

    Davi_Alan Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Purplecandle,

    Did they already drained all of the blood back in 1933 for funenrary procedures? Thanks for the two poison options, I'll look up Arsenic, as I'm not very familiar with it yet. Thanks again.
     
  6. PurpleCandle
    Offline

    PurpleCandle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    NC
    They have been embalming since before Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. It wasn't as perfected as it is today. But, the tradition of wakes and viewing the body made embalming a common practice even in those days...perhaps moreso for wealthy people. I imagine a poor farmer may have just been put in a pine box and buried on his land. However, 1933 really was not that long ago and *most* Americans (Christians) had access to being embalmed.
     
  7. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    Another important thing to research was what the child mortality was in cities in the USA during this period. Because death of a child was back was much more common, and culturally experienced very differently. I think it might be at least that 20% of all children at that time died before the age of 12.

    For us, the death of the child feels as rare as a tragic stoke of lightning. Back then, most families lost children. Making the cultural perception and how it was was handled very different.
     
  8. PurpleCandle
    Offline

    PurpleCandle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    NC
    20% is a bit high (for 1933). In fact 1930-1940 saw a decrease in the infant mortality rates. Instead of 50%, more than 90% of women delivered babies in hospitals which helped the decrease. Of course, those without hospital access, African Americans and rural people might have had less success.

    Now, 1900 20% would have been a low estimate.
    But, even if you go with a %30 estimate, that is still not a common occurrence.

    But, you are right, the infant mortality rate is something to consider.
    Here is a link with some information.
    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm
     
  9. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    I didn't talk about -infant- mortality rate. I was talking about child mortality rate. All deaths up to the the of 12 (or 8 in some definitions). Loads of kids died, not only as infants, but during their childhood.
     
  10. PurpleCandle
    Offline

    PurpleCandle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    NC
    Child or infant, my point was that by the 30's mortality rates were substantially better than in 1900.

    I am not saying that lots of kids did not die. In fact, they still die in the country because we rank 25th in infant and child mortality.
     
  11. Davi_Alan
    Offline

    Davi_Alan Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi there Everyone,

    Oh wow, another parallel subject has been going, I can see. The child mortality thing, well, yes, good of you to point out - thanks. However, in my story the child just doesn't die - it's a poison induced death. I think what you were trying to say is that it would still be somewhat of a common thing to have a child die before reaching age 12 at that time, is that right?
    Well, PurpleCandle, I'm now mad that you told me the detail about embalming. Hahaha, but it was an important thing. My hands are tied now. How can I make it so they discover that the child and maid were poisoned? Would examining fingernails be a good option since they drained the blood? And, I'm sorry, but I'm not wholly familiarized with the embalming process, but do they actually take all of the blood out?
     
  12. w176
    Offline

    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,067
    Likes Received:
    49
    Location:
    Luleå, Sweden
    Yeah. And that de response to a very ill child would be different in a time an place when it was common that children die.
     
  13. midwestwife
    Offline

    midwestwife Member

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    64
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Just east of the rainbow.
    Arsenic is the poison of your time frame. Pesticides would be the logical choice since most are sweet in taste (according to manufactures). You need to research the motivation behind poisoning. She really needs to be fighting an elated feeling while absorbing all the extra attention. That attention is usually addictive. Borderline personality disorder could be her "crazy" which will tie in with the rage of jealousy causing such violence. Also you need more then vomiting. Poisoning is very nasty mentally and physically. It is one of the most violent ways to murder someone if you think about it. Even more so when a mother does it to her son. Child mortality rates where very high in the USA till right at the 1930s. Child labor was out law’d around 1910 so you figure it would take a good 10 plus years to actually enforce (maybe more considering the other problems the USA faced at the time), that and healthcare improvements dramatically increase the CHILD mortality rate between 1930 and 40. One sick child dying with no explanation after suffering a drawn out illness would not rise many questions. Especially if the family had a good reputation. I doubt there would be much postmortem testing considering the child has been under the care of doctor. These are still the good ole boy glory days. Unless they suspect something they are not going to waste the time looking.
    I suggest more research on arsenic, poisoning motivations, symptoms of poisoning. Let google be your guide!
    Happy writing!!!
    Amanda
     
  14. PurpleCandle
    Offline

    PurpleCandle Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2010
    Messages:
    165
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    NC
    I found this for you by accident. It is a glossary of 1930's slang. I thought you might like it.

    http://www.paper-dragon.com/1939/slang.html

    I don't know how they would medically know for certain that poison was used. But, this type of story usually has a character (detective/doctor) that is smart (will see the similarities between the deaths), that person will them learn about poisons and confront or set a trap for the perpetrators..where the poision is found on the person or the person confesses.

    If you line up enough circumstantial evidence, the lack of blood work won't matter to the reader. Back then it was mostly circumstantial evidence anyway.
     
  15. Honorius
    Offline

    Honorius Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    1,449
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Thebes
    Your description greatly reminds me of the poison used by Mrs. Villefort in The Count of Monte Cristo. Sadly, I don't have the count on me. Someone here might know it's name though, or you might be able to find it online. Sorry I couldn't help more.
     
  16. psychotick
    Offline

    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,375
    Likes Received:
    315
    Location:
    Rotorua, New Zealand
    poisons

    Hi,

    Have you considered lead poisoning? It has two forms. Acute lead poisoning will cause some GI symptoms, gut pain, nausea, vomiting etc but also quite distinct neurological symptoms such as parasthesia and muscle weakness.

    While chronic lead poisoning - low dose over a long time will mainly lead to neurological symptoms, brain damage and also multiple organ failure as the lead burden builds up in the body. Its especially dangerous for children as it prevents the brainfrom developing normally.

    There are many lead salts, some can be white powders.

    Cheers.
     
  17. Davi_Alan
    Offline

    Davi_Alan Member

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    Wow, I'm amazed to see so many replies. Thank you guys. So, trying to answer everybody, here it goes:

    1) Midwestwife - One of my friends asked me that same question you just did - about the motivation. My short-story does tend to focus more on the husband's growing suspicion of his wife, as he discovers she is the actual murder. I don't go much into the wife's psychological background, but I do have the wife making it very clearly right at the end of the story confess that she has done all of her crimes because she grew jealous of her husband. She mentions that she felt like she was in a constant fight for his love with her son. I thought that this was enough of a motivation and I didn't want to get into too much of a psychological background because it is, after all, a short story. You also mentioned that I need more than vomiting. I didn't put all the details here, but in my story I do mention that the child grows pale, thin, and asides from the vomitng fits he also becomes feverish.

    2) Purplecandle - Thank you for that link. It'll sure be a good help in the future as I enjoy writing stories that take place in those decades. Well, I did mention in a few replies earlier that another character (a maid who comes to take the place of the one who was poisoned) will find the diary of the deceased maid. And in the last diary entry there will be written that the deceased maid saw the wife pour "a strange substance" into the child's soup. This is the husband's main motivation for calling on a detective to investigate.

    3) Psychotick - no, before posting this thread I had not thought of any particular poison. This is one of the reasons why I started this thread. Thanks for the heads up.

    I'm so glad you guys have been helping me out with it. I'll be sending this story for submission soon. Wish me luck!
     
  18. kablooblab
    Offline

    kablooblab Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2011
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    at home
    I know its not helping you but why did she kill them?
     
  19. Ellipse
    Offline

    Ellipse Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2010
    Messages:
    714
    Likes Received:
    32
    Did you read his original post? It's in the beginning of the second paragraph.
     

Share This Page