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Henry Siegel Papers on alleged tubocurarine poisonings

 Collection
Identifier: MS C 437

Abstract

Correspondence, autopsy report, depositions, and transcripts of court records accumulated by the pathologists hired by the defense in the trial of "Dr. X," Mario E. Jascalevich.

Dates

  • 1964-1985

Extent

7.1 Linear Feet (17 boxes)

Abstract

Correspondence, autopsy report, depositions, and transcripts of court records accumulated by the pathologists hired by the defense in the trial of "Dr. X," Mario E. Jascalevich.

Physical Location

Materials stored onsite. History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine

Restrictions

Collection is not restricted. Contact the Reference Staff for information regarding access.

Copyright and Re-use Information

Donor's copyrights were transferred to the public domain. Archival collections often contain mixed copyrights; while NLM is the owner of the physical items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. It is the user's responsibility to research and understand any applicable copyright and re-publication rights not allowed by fair use. NLM does not grant permissions to publish.

Privacy Information

Archives and manuscript collections may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in any collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the National Library of Medicine assumes no responsibility.

Historical Note

On May 18, 1976, Dr. Mario E. Jascalevich wad indicted for five murders. Two of Jascalevich's colleagues at Riverdell Hospital in Oradell, N.J. - Dr. Stanley Harris, a surgeon, and Dr. Allan Lans, an osteopathic physician - suspected him of murdering their patients with curare. In January 1976 a series of articles about a "Doctor X" suspected of murdering patients at Riverdell Hospital appeared in the New York Times, and the Bergen County Prosecutor's office reopened its case. A month prior to the case being officially reopened, however, New York Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden supplied an affidavit with the Superior Court in Bergen County stating that at least a score of patients who died at Riverdell in 1966 succumbed from other reasons than those stated on death certificates. A Superior Court judge signed the order in January 1976, granting the prosecutor's office the right to exhume the bodies of five patients, all entered Riverdell Hospital between December 1965 and September 1966 for routine surgical procedures and succumbed days afterward. A little more than year later, the state's forensic experts began using radioimmunoassay (RIA) and high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) on the tissue specimens. In the fall of 1977, the defense received from Dr. Baden and his expert in toxicology Dr. Dal Cortivo samples of tissues and embalming fluids of the alleged murder victims. On February 28, 1978, a panel of 18 jurors was chosen for what was to become one of the longest criminal trials (34 weeks) in the nation's history. The defense contended that RIA and HPLC were relatively new procedures and could not be used to detect curare in human tissue.

The major question addressed by the defense was that of the long-term stability of curare under the conditions to which the bodies were subjected between 1966 and 1976. It was contended that the RIA was not specific enough and "could only rise suspicions that something is there but it might not be there." Tests for the stability of curare found that both embalming fluids and tissue juices (from the patients) had destructive effects on this compound. Defense witnesses testified that curare could not survive in embalmed bodies for 10 years. On October 24, 1978 Jascalevich was acquitted of all murder charges.

Henry Siegel, physician and pathologist, was medical examiner for Westchester County, N.Y.

Collection Summary

Correspondence, autopsy report, depositions, and transcripts of court records accumulated by the pathologists hired by the defense in the trial of "Dr. X," Mario E. Jascalevich.

Provenance

Gift of Dr. Henry Siegel in 1988.

General

Processed by
HMD Staff
Encoded by
Dan Jenkins

Language of Materials

Collection materials primarily in English

Title
Finding Aid to the Henry Siegel Papers on Alleged Tubocurarine Poisonings, 1964-1985
Status
Unverified Partial Draft
Author
HMD Staff
Date
2000
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latn
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English
Edition statement
Version 1.0

Revision Statements

  • July 2004: PUBLIC "-//National Library of Medicine::History of Medicine Division//TEXT (US::DNLM::MS C 437::Henry Siegel Papers on Alleged Tubocurarine Poisonings)//EN" "siegel" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Archives and Modern Manuscripts Collection Collecting Area

Contact:
8600 Rockville Pike
Bldg 38/1E-21, MSC 3819
Bethesda MD 20894 US
(301) 402-8878