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Drug's Effect Illustrated

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Drug’s Effect Illustrated

VA Trial

By John Barton

DETROIT — Prosecution medical experts continued testifying today in the trial of two Filipino Nurses accused of murdering and poisoning patients in the Ann Arbor VA Hospital.

On Monday, the jury of 10 men and six women watched and listened fascinated as Dr. Marcelle Willock injected blue dye into intravenous (IV) tubes and bags to illustrate the flow of the drug believed used to kill and paralyze patients during the summer of 1975.

The two nurses, Leonora Perez and Filipina Narciso, are accused of deliberately injecting the potent muscle relaxant Pavulon into the IV apparatus of nine men, killing two of them.

PAVULON, WILLOCK TOLD the jurors, can paralyze breathing muscles within seconds.

“Unless someone breathes for the patient," the anesthesiologist from Roosevelt Hospital in New York City told the jury, “by that I mean a respirator, the patient will turn very blue and suffocate.”

Working with two IV bags suspended from hat racks and dripping into a wastebasket at the point the tubing would normally be attached to a patient, Willock told the jurors that Pavulon injected into IV tubing would take effect within 30 to 60 seconds.

When the drug is administered, she told the jury as the blue dye began flowing through the IV tubing and dripping into the waste container, first the face and neck become paralyzed.

THEN EYELIDS BEGIN to droop and the arms become so heavy the person cannot raise them. The patient, who remains conscious throughout, may also think he is choking because the tongue muscles relax and it begins to loll back in the throat.

“Usually”, she said, “the respiration is the last to go. "

But, she added, the entire sequence may take only 30 seconds to occur from the time the drug begins to drip into the bloodstream.

Unless the patient is connected to a breathing machine, the heart and brain eventually stop operating because of lack of oxygen, she said.

WILLOCK, WHO ALSO works for the New York City medical examiner’s office on cases involving "anesthetic deaths,” returned to the stand this morning to face cross-examination by the defense team.

The trial, which began its second week Monday before U.S. District Court Judge Philip Pratt, is expected to drag on through much of the week with testimony from an assortment of prosecution medical, chemical and anesthesia experts.