Attempted murder with pancuronium

J Forensic Sci. 1990 Nov;35(6):1468-76.


A nurse was accused of attempting to murder her anesthesiologist husband on two occasions by administering to him a neuromuscular blocking agent. In both episodes, urine specimens were obtained from the victim shortly after the suspected assaults. The samples were initially tested fluorometrically using Rose Bengal dye as a pairing agent. Both were presumptively positive for pancuronium. Confirmation of these results was achieved by pairing the drug with potassium iodide, extracting the complex, and submitting the extract to thin-layer chromatography (TLC) cleanup, elution at the appropriate retardation factor (Rf), and, finally, gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analysis in the selected-ion monitoring mode. The two quaternary amines of pancuronium appear to undergo pyrolytic N-demethylation in the injection port to yield an entity amenable to capillary column gas chromatography. The mass spectrum of the compound consists of a base peak of m/z 322, with additional fragments of 292, 323, 338, and 397 m/z, each of which was monitored. The confirmed positive findings were instrumental in adjudicating the case.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Homicide*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pancuronium / poisoning*
  • Pancuronium / urine*


  • Pancuronium