General Question

jaytkay's avatar

Why do toxicity tests take weeks?

Asked by jaytkay (23456 points ) June 1st, 2010

Why would it take eight to 12 weeks to look for chemicals/poisons/drugs after a death?

In today’s paper there’s a story about a man found dead, with no obvious cause. “An autopsy Monday was inconclusive”.

OK, understandable. But the next step is “toxicology test results, which could take eight to 12 weeks, a medical examiner’s spokesman said.”

??

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7 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

Local law enforcement/coroner’s office may not have the capacity to do the tests themselves and so have to send the work to an outside lab which may or may not have a backlog. Things take time.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Either they are checking for multiple toxins, which require multiple tests, or they are smoking crack on the governments dime. Your guess is as good as mine.

I’m sure they must be very thorough if there is any possibility of getting lawyers involved later.

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think some of it also has to do with the urgency of having it done. Labs are going to run samples on living people that need results in a hurry to possibly save their life before they run samples on a dead person.

Lightlyseared's avatar

I agree with @Seaofclouds. The tests probably don’t take that long to do but the labs are probably running very near capacity and if it’s a choice between the autopsy and finding out what poisoned the guy in the ER before he dies then thats probably going to be done first.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

It’s mostly how backed up the lab is. Plus, in order to test for things outside of the standard panel, you have to do several different tests.

CMaz's avatar

Because you have to take a number.

Kayak8's avatar

One is testing for various substances and compounds as well as quantifying how much of the various stuff may be there. In addition, with biological material, things get metabolized (depending on how long they were in the body before death occurred) and they can also combine to form new compounds (conjugation).

Add all this to what you read above (live people’s tests go first, not all law enforcement entities have their own labs, so they have to send things out, etc.). Further, if the pathologist suspects a certain poison, this is not necessarily in the standardized tests available at most labs.

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