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    Ophthalmology and death by poison

    In Ancient Rome, death by poison was common. Emperors poisoned potential rivals. Aspirants to the throne poisoned emperors. Mothers poisoned the other potential male heirs of the emperor so that their own sons would be next in line to "wear the purple." Poisoning people you didn’t like was the thing to do. 

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    My position is that murdering people with poison is a terrible thing, even if the victim is an annoying parent, mother-in-law, or department chair. Personally, I consider it inexcusable for an ophthalmologist to be party to such a thing. It's morally wrong, plus the penalty would likely be severe (suspension of operating privileges or even being fired—unless, of course, you have tenure).

    More: If you’re so smart, why aren’t you happy?

    Yet ophthalmologists certainly have the means to go around poisoning folks. Agatha Christie wrote a murder mystery in which eye drops are the instrument of death. According to The New Yorker, one of her readers probably copied the crime in real life:

    'Indeed, Christie’s attention to detail left her open to the accusation that she offered a handbook for would-be murderers. [Kathryn] Harkup recounts a 1977 case in France, in which Roland Roussel, a fifty-eight-year-old office worker, murdered his aunt using atropine eye drops. The gendarme who found a copy of the Miss Marple mystery “The Tuesday Club Murders” in Roussel’s apartment reportedly declared, “I’m not saying Roussel was inspired by the book, but we found it in his apartment with the relevant passages on poison underlined.”' 

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    Peter J. McDonnell, MD
    He is director of The Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of ...

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