[Suicidal yew poisoning--from Caesar to today--or suicide instructions on the internet]

Arch Kriminol. 2003 Jan-Feb;211(1-2):19-26.
[Article in German]


Already the Celts and ancient Germanic peoples knew about the poisonousness of the yew, which played an important part in the mythology of these civilizations. For hunting, the arrows were made poisonous with yew juice, and yew leaves were used for homicide and suicide. In modern times taxine is rarely used with suicidal intent, although this method is actually recommended on the respective Websites. After a 14-year-old boy had intensively studied poisonous plants and methods of suicide on various Websites, he cut leaves from a yew tree (taxus baccata) in his parents' garden, crushed and ingested them and died soon afterwards. At the forensic autopsy pieces of the partially crushed, partially completely preserved yew leaves were found in the stomach. The histological findings were unspecific, e.g. marked general blood congestion of the internal organs and pronounced cerebral and pulmonary edema. When the tree leaves found in the stomach were viewed under the light microscope, a stoma typical of taxus was observed; chemical-toxicological investigations revealed 3,5-dimethoxyphenol in the gastric content, which is considered a marker for the ingestion of taxus.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Autopsy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Brain / pathology
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Internet* / trends
  • Male
  • Plant Poisoning / diagnosis*
  • Plant Poisoning / history
  • Suicide* / history
  • Suicide* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Taxus / poisoning*