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Intentional ethylene glycol poisoning increase after media coverage of antifreeze murders.

Morgan BW, Geller RJ, Kazzi ZN - West J Emerg Med (2011)

Bottom Line: The media can have a profound impact on human behavior.In the month after the first media report, our PC handled 5 EG cases with suicidal intent.When media coverage was most intense (2004), our PC received a mean of 10 EG suicidal-intent calls per month [range: 5-17, SD=3.55].

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Emory University, Department of Emergency Medicine, Atlanta, GA.

ABSTRACT

Background: The media can have a profound impact on human behavior. A sensational murder by ethylene glycol (EG) poisoning occurred in our state. The regional media provided extensive coverage of the murder. We undertook this investigation to evaluate our incidence of EG poisoning during the timeframe of before the first report linking a death to ethylene glycol to shortly after the first murder trial.

Methods: Descriptive statistics and linear regression were used to describe and analyze the number of EG cases over time. A search of the leading regional newspaper's archives established the media coverage timeline.

Result: Between 2000 and 2004, our poison center (PC) handled a steady volume of unintentional exposures to EG [range: 105-123 per year, standard deviation (SD)=7.22]. EG exposures thought to be suicidal in intent increased from 12 cases in 2000 to 121 cases in 2004. In the 19 months prior to the first media report of this story, our PC handled a mean of 1 EG case with suicidal intent per month [range: 0-2, SD=.69]. In the month after the first media report, our PC handled 5 EG cases with suicidal intent. When media coverage was most intense (2004), our PC received a mean of 10 EG suicidal-intent calls per month [range: 5-17, SD=3.55]. Although uncommon, reports of malicious EG poisonings also increased during this same period from 2 in 2000 to 14 in 2004.

Conclusion: Media coverage of stories involving poisonings may result in copycat events, applicable to both self-poisonings and concern for malicious poisonings. Poison centers should be aware of this phenomenon, pay attention to local media and plan accordingly if a poisoning event receives significant media coverage. The media should be more sensitive to the content of their coverage and avoid providing "how to" poisoning information.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Ethylene glycol (EG) cases per month by intention: 2000–2004.Media Timeline1Investigation opened once boyfriend’s Jan 2001 death attributed to EG poisoning, husband’s body exhumed2Results show husband’s 1995 death due to EG poisoning3Boyfriend’s death ruled homicide; body of 2nd law enforcement officer exhumed4Lab results show 2nd officer’s death not due to EG poisoning5Husband’s 1995 death ruled homicide6Lynn Turner formally charged with husband’s 1995 murder & declared prime suspect in boyfriend’s 2001 murder7Pre-trial hearing; court rules to allow testimony on boyfriend’s death because of case similarities8Court rejects plea to bar testimony on boyfriend’s death in husband’s murder trial9Court rejects plea to bar EG lab test results10Trial begins but change of venue ordered after 62 of 65 jurors questioned said they had heard about the case in pretrial publicity11Trial broadcast live on national TV; ends with guilty verdict and immediate life sentence12Investigators question whether deaths of another woman and her former boyfriend were caused by EG poisoning13Lynn Turner formally charged with boyfriend’s murder & faces new charges for falsifying documents for loan14Prosecutors announce plan to seek death penaltySD; standard deviation
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f2-wjem12_3p0296: Ethylene glycol (EG) cases per month by intention: 2000–2004.Media Timeline1Investigation opened once boyfriend’s Jan 2001 death attributed to EG poisoning, husband’s body exhumed2Results show husband’s 1995 death due to EG poisoning3Boyfriend’s death ruled homicide; body of 2nd law enforcement officer exhumed4Lab results show 2nd officer’s death not due to EG poisoning5Husband’s 1995 death ruled homicide6Lynn Turner formally charged with husband’s 1995 murder & declared prime suspect in boyfriend’s 2001 murder7Pre-trial hearing; court rules to allow testimony on boyfriend’s death because of case similarities8Court rejects plea to bar testimony on boyfriend’s death in husband’s murder trial9Court rejects plea to bar EG lab test results10Trial begins but change of venue ordered after 62 of 65 jurors questioned said they had heard about the case in pretrial publicity11Trial broadcast live on national TV; ends with guilty verdict and immediate life sentence12Investigators question whether deaths of another woman and her former boyfriend were caused by EG poisoning13Lynn Turner formally charged with boyfriend’s murder & faces new charges for falsifying documents for loan14Prosecutors announce plan to seek death penaltySD; standard deviation

Mentions: In the 19 months prior to the first media report of the EG homicide, our poison center handled a mean of one EG suicide case per month (range 0–2, SD=0.69). In the month after the first media report, we identified five EG cases with suicidal intent. Figure 2 reveals the number of EG cases in relation to the media reports discovered in our search of the AJC. During 2004, when the media coverage was most intense, the mean number of EG cases with suicidal intent was 10 per month (range 5–17, SD=3.55). Well-defined clusters of suspected EG suicides appear to correlate closely with the media timeline. The peak number (n=17) of cases per month occurred in May 2004, when the trial was broadcasted on national television.


Intentional ethylene glycol poisoning increase after media coverage of antifreeze murders.

Morgan BW, Geller RJ, Kazzi ZN - West J Emerg Med (2011)

Ethylene glycol (EG) cases per month by intention: 2000–2004.Media Timeline1Investigation opened once boyfriend’s Jan 2001 death attributed to EG poisoning, husband’s body exhumed2Results show husband’s 1995 death due to EG poisoning3Boyfriend’s death ruled homicide; body of 2nd law enforcement officer exhumed4Lab results show 2nd officer’s death not due to EG poisoning5Husband’s 1995 death ruled homicide6Lynn Turner formally charged with husband’s 1995 murder & declared prime suspect in boyfriend’s 2001 murder7Pre-trial hearing; court rules to allow testimony on boyfriend’s death because of case similarities8Court rejects plea to bar testimony on boyfriend’s death in husband’s murder trial9Court rejects plea to bar EG lab test results10Trial begins but change of venue ordered after 62 of 65 jurors questioned said they had heard about the case in pretrial publicity11Trial broadcast live on national TV; ends with guilty verdict and immediate life sentence12Investigators question whether deaths of another woman and her former boyfriend were caused by EG poisoning13Lynn Turner formally charged with boyfriend’s murder & faces new charges for falsifying documents for loan14Prosecutors announce plan to seek death penaltySD; standard deviation
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3117604&req=5

f2-wjem12_3p0296: Ethylene glycol (EG) cases per month by intention: 2000–2004.Media Timeline1Investigation opened once boyfriend’s Jan 2001 death attributed to EG poisoning, husband’s body exhumed2Results show husband’s 1995 death due to EG poisoning3Boyfriend’s death ruled homicide; body of 2nd law enforcement officer exhumed4Lab results show 2nd officer’s death not due to EG poisoning5Husband’s 1995 death ruled homicide6Lynn Turner formally charged with husband’s 1995 murder & declared prime suspect in boyfriend’s 2001 murder7Pre-trial hearing; court rules to allow testimony on boyfriend’s death because of case similarities8Court rejects plea to bar testimony on boyfriend’s death in husband’s murder trial9Court rejects plea to bar EG lab test results10Trial begins but change of venue ordered after 62 of 65 jurors questioned said they had heard about the case in pretrial publicity11Trial broadcast live on national TV; ends with guilty verdict and immediate life sentence12Investigators question whether deaths of another woman and her former boyfriend were caused by EG poisoning13Lynn Turner formally charged with boyfriend’s murder & faces new charges for falsifying documents for loan14Prosecutors announce plan to seek death penaltySD; standard deviation
Mentions: In the 19 months prior to the first media report of the EG homicide, our poison center handled a mean of one EG suicide case per month (range 0–2, SD=0.69). In the month after the first media report, we identified five EG cases with suicidal intent. Figure 2 reveals the number of EG cases in relation to the media reports discovered in our search of the AJC. During 2004, when the media coverage was most intense, the mean number of EG cases with suicidal intent was 10 per month (range 5–17, SD=3.55). Well-defined clusters of suspected EG suicides appear to correlate closely with the media timeline. The peak number (n=17) of cases per month occurred in May 2004, when the trial was broadcasted on national television.

Bottom Line: The media can have a profound impact on human behavior.In the month after the first media report, our PC handled 5 EG cases with suicidal intent.When media coverage was most intense (2004), our PC received a mean of 10 EG suicidal-intent calls per month [range: 5-17, SD=3.55].

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Emory University, Department of Emergency Medicine, Atlanta, GA.

ABSTRACT

Background: The media can have a profound impact on human behavior. A sensational murder by ethylene glycol (EG) poisoning occurred in our state. The regional media provided extensive coverage of the murder. We undertook this investigation to evaluate our incidence of EG poisoning during the timeframe of before the first report linking a death to ethylene glycol to shortly after the first murder trial.

Methods: Descriptive statistics and linear regression were used to describe and analyze the number of EG cases over time. A search of the leading regional newspaper's archives established the media coverage timeline.

Result: Between 2000 and 2004, our poison center (PC) handled a steady volume of unintentional exposures to EG [range: 105-123 per year, standard deviation (SD)=7.22]. EG exposures thought to be suicidal in intent increased from 12 cases in 2000 to 121 cases in 2004. In the 19 months prior to the first media report of this story, our PC handled a mean of 1 EG case with suicidal intent per month [range: 0-2, SD=.69]. In the month after the first media report, our PC handled 5 EG cases with suicidal intent. When media coverage was most intense (2004), our PC received a mean of 10 EG suicidal-intent calls per month [range: 5-17, SD=3.55]. Although uncommon, reports of malicious EG poisonings also increased during this same period from 2 in 2000 to 14 in 2004.

Conclusion: Media coverage of stories involving poisonings may result in copycat events, applicable to both self-poisonings and concern for malicious poisonings. Poison centers should be aware of this phenomenon, pay attention to local media and plan accordingly if a poisoning event receives significant media coverage. The media should be more sensitive to the content of their coverage and avoid providing "how to" poisoning information.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus