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Thread: What sorts of illnesses does chronic arcenic poisoning mimic?

  1. #1
    figuring it all out Girlsgottawrite's Avatar
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    What sorts of illnesses does chronic arcenic poisoning mimic?

    I'm killing off a character, but I need the killer to get away with it, and I wanted their death to be somewhat slow.

    I initially used arsenic as the basis for my poison, but the illnesses I've found that it mimics are dysentery and cholera and those are both fairly quick killing. I've already had the character fall ill before and recover somewhat. Maybe that was a mistake?

    I've read a bit about chronic arsenic poisoning and that it was hard to detect, but can't seem to find information on what illnesses it might have been mistaken for. Does anyone know of an illness/disease that this sort of slow gastrointestinal decline would be indicative of?

    Thanks so much!!!

    P.S. This is for a fantasy novel set in a world - time period - similar to the 1880's.

  2. #2
    Resist. Love. Go outside. Marlys's Avatar
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    This might help: book on poisons from 1872. Describes symptoms of chronic arsenic poisoning, how they could be masked somewhat by mixing it with opium, and that the resulting illness might be mistaken for common gastritis or enteritis. If the link doesn't take you right to the pages, they're page 70 and 71.

    I have great luck in general searching Google Books for the info I want in the time period I'm writing about. If this particular book doesn't give you enough, try searching chronic arsenic poisoning from, say, 1850-1880.
    Last edited by Marlys; 11-27-2017 at 12:10 AM. Reason: added info

  3. #3
    down the rabbit hole of research... CWatts's Avatar
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    Marlys, that's a great link.

    One other thing to consider, Girlsgottawrite, is that if your fantasy world is like the real 1880s, a person could be exposed to arsenic through dyes and consumer products and the poisoning ruled accidental. Paris Green was a popular dye during the Victorian era and was also rat poison. https://thepragmaticcostumer.wordpre...ictorian-life/

    Here's a reference and author interview that may also help you. https://pictorial.jezebel.com/why-th...son-1776129158

  4. #4
    figuring it all out Girlsgottawrite's Avatar
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    Thanks, Marlys. I've been looking at google books, but I'm not finding any really clear answers. They mention gastritis, like you said, but I worry that isn't a very convincing cause of death for a man in his late 20's. Then again, maybe it would have been back then.

  5. #5
    down the rabbit hole of research... CWatts's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Girlsgottawrite View Post
    Thanks, Marlys. I've been looking at google books, but I'm not finding any really clear answers. They mention gastritis, like you said, but I worry that isn't a very convincing cause of death for a man in his late 20's. Then again, maybe it would have been back then.
    Maybe if it looked like appendicitis and that his appendix burst? Obviously that would not hold up with an autopsy though.

    Of course it's fantasy so you could make up a disease. Just establish it in your world.

  6. #6
    figuring it all out Girlsgottawrite's Avatar
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    Those are great links, CWatts! I knew that they used it in some cosmetics, but not dye.
    Thank you both of you for the help!

  7. #7
    Heckuva good sport frimble3's Avatar
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    What about 'grumbling appendix', which is a chronic condition, or, that old time favourite, 'dyspepsia' which is apparently just a term for a group of gastric symptoms? Or, a stomach ulcer?
    Something that would be common enough that people wouldn't think to autopsy it. Not unless something suspicious attracted their attention.
    Last edited by frimble3; 11-27-2017 at 08:22 AM.

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