Sunday, December 12, 2004

More on Poisoning

Meanwhile in Vienna, more details are out about the poisoning of Yushchenko. It is reported (German language) according to the doctors that he had something like a thousand times the normal level of the stuff in his flesh, which implied an original dose of something under a gram. Damage to his intestines suggested that the poison was administered by mouth. (In a Viennese touch, the good doctor speculated that the dioxin could have easily been concealed in a bowl of Schlagoberssuppe.)

According to Dr. Zimpfer, the diagnosis had been especially difficult due to the poison being consumed orally rather than inhaled - he states that very few cases of oral dioxin poisoning are known (can anyone with requisite expertise support or criticise this?) and that it led to an entirely different presentation of the disease (Krankheitsbild).

The comments threads at Der Standard are running wild about this, with a mixture of crazed conspiracy theories about obscure sects whose colour is - orange! - and withering sarcasm directed at them. Perhaps the least crazed version is that he might have taken the dioxin himself in order to gain sympathy. The best argument against this is probably the long term effect of the stuff on your system - apart from the galloping acne (now there's a phrase you don't often hear), the symptoms can include deformities, cancer, immune system deficiency, sterility, birth defects if that is not the case, as well as radical changes in your balance of hormones. It's one of those disturbing pathologies that can affect literally any part of your body.

And another thing: there's a lot of it about. If you remember, this happened to Anna Politkovskaya on her way to cover the Beslan school siege:
"We have long stopped talking over our phones openly, assuming they are tapped. But this is an emergency. Eventually a man introduces himself as an airport executive: "I'll put you on a flight to Rostov." In the minibus, the driver tells me that the Russian security services, the FSB, told him to put me on the Rostov flight. As I board, my eyes meet those of three passengers sitting in a group: malicious eyes, looking at an enemy. But I don't pay attention. This is the way most FSB people look at me.

The plane takes off. I ask for a tea. It is many hours by road from Rostov to Beslan and war has taught me that it's better not to eat. At 21:50 I drink it. At 22:00 I realise that I have to call the air stewardess as I am rapidly losing consciousness. My other memories are scrappy: the stewardess weeps and shouts: "We're landing, hold on!"

"Welcome back," said a woman bending over me in Rostov regional hospital. The nurse tells me that when they brought me in I was "almost hopeless". Then she whispers: "My dear, they tried to poison you." All the tests taken at the airport have been destroyed - on orders "from on high", say the doctors."

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