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Death of a 10-Month-Old Boy After Exposure to Ethylmorphine

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Ethylmorphine, an opiate that is partially metabolized to morphine, is a common ingredient in antitussive preparations. We present a case where a 10-month-old boy was administered ethylmorphine in the evening and found dead in bed the following morning. Postmortem toxicological analyses of heart blood by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry revealed the presence of ethylmorphine and morphine at concentrations of 0.17 μM (0.054 mg/L) and 0.090 μM (0.026 mg/L), respectively. CYP2D6 genotyping showed that the deceased had an extensive metabolizer genotype, signifying a “normal” capacity for metabolizing ethylmorphine to morphine. The autopsy report concluded that death was caused by a combination of opiate-induced sedation and weakening of respiratory drive, a respiratory infection, and a sleeping position that could have impeded breathing. This is the first case report where the death of an infant has been linked to ethylmorphine ingestion.
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Keywords: blood concentration; child; death; ethylmorphine; forensic science; forensic toxicology; infant; morphine; postmortem

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Clinical Pharmacology, St. Olav University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway.

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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