Q&A: Toxicology reports take tme

Toxicology tests take time

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Toxicology tests are often done when a celebrity like Whitney Houston dies unexpectedly. What tests are performed? Why does it take several weeks for the results?

Blood, urine and tissue samples are collected from various parts of the body at the time of autopsy. This includes taking blood from the heart and the femoral vein in the leg, Dr. Barbarajean Magnani, chairwoman of the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, told WebMD.

Tissue samples from the liver, brain, kidney and vitreous humor from the eyeball chamber, in addition to stomach contents and bile, which is secreted by the liver, are also taken. Magnani told the website that a basic drug screen, which tests for opiates, amphetamines, marijuana, alcohol and barbiturates, is done. Another test, called an immunoassay, detects various classes of drugs.

More specific tests, like mass spectrometry, can detect the quantity and concentration of drugs.

"Some of the tests take days, weeks, months," Dr. Alan Hall, a toxicologist, told WebMD. Magnani said four to six weeks for the results is "pretty standard," but can vary due to the amount tested, extra tests if more evidence is uncovered, confirmation of tests and backlogs at labs.

"I am sure there are TV shows where they squirt blood into a machine and five seconds later, they get a printout of every drug the person has ever taken. (But) it just doesn't work like that," Dr. Andrew Baker, president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, told Reuters.

Obama, Romney and citizenship

If (George) Romney was able to run for president, why is there such a controversy over Obama's citizenship?

Children born of two U.S. citizens, no matter where that birth happens, can be U.S. citizens if either of the parents has ever legally lived in the United States prior to the birth.

George Romney, the father of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was born July 8, 1907, in Mexico to American citizens who were living there in a Mormon colony at the time. They chose U.S. citizenship for their son, and the Mexican Revolution caused the family to move back to the United States in 1912.

The controversy over President Barack Obama's citizenship revolves around the belief held by some — called "birthers" — that he was not born in the United States and that his Kenyan father was a British subject. His mother, Ann Dunham, was a U.S. citizen when she gave birth to her son on Aug. 4, 1961.

But documents, statements by Hawaiian officials and newspaper birth announcements make clear that President Obama was born in Hawaii, automatically making him a U.S. citizen and, therefore, eligible for the presidency.

Q&A: Toxicology reports take tme 03/12/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 12, 2012 1:32pm]

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