Medicine: Death by Cyanide

A phial of potassium cyanide was all Hermann Göring needed to cheat the gallows (see INTERNATIONAL). The poison is a favorite with suicides. It is quick: five grains kill in 15 minutes; a heavier dose will do the job in two. Unless given immediately, antidotes are useless.

Cyanide suffocates. It stops oxygen consumption by body tissues. It is hot and bitter when swallowed, produces nausea and a splitting headache. The throat tightens, and the victim gasps for breath, reels, stares wildly without seeing, is seized by convulsions, and falls unconscious. Then, like an expiring balloon, his laboring lungs and heart slowly collapse....