This week I’m analyzing some of the new Fall TV shows– medically speaking.
I’ve always been a fan of James Spader. No one does evil genius as good as he does.
The Blacklist is set up similarly to Hannibal (the first Anthony Hopkins movie) in the sense that he is a criminal mastermind and for some reason, as yet undiscovered, is only willing to talk with an FBI ingenue about criminal plots that he is aware of.
In one of the early episodes, the two attend a fund-raising event for a human rights advocate who is being targeted for murder. It just so happens that she’s really trafficking humans and thus perhaps is justly murdered to prevent her from continuing this criminal enterprise. Of course, the young FBI agent is a big fan of this woman and has written papers about her humanitarian efforts.
When the trafficker’s secret is exposed, James Spader’s characters says:
“She’s been given a lethal cocktail of the same barbiturates she used to drug her children. I have the antitode.”
Then the FBI agent proceeds to do the pen to the trachea maneuver to help her breathe.
And my eye-rolling begins.
First of all– what are the barbiturates? These would be drugs like amytal sodium (AKA a supposed truth serum drug), phenobarbital and Seconal. Oh, by the way, there is not an “antidote” for this type of overdose. There are only two antidotes for overdoses and they are Narcan for opiates and Flumazenil for Benzodiazepines (like Valium).
The purpose of an emergency tracheotomy (the pen to the throat for breathing) is to bypass an upper airway obstruction. The effects of an OD of barbiturates is a decrease in breathing or breathing cessation but the airway is not obstructed. To “save” this patient– all our trusty FBI agent needed to do was give her mouth to mouth and all that extra blood could have been avoided.
You can read more about Barbiturate OD here.
Last post and this post I’m doing a medical critique of James Patterson’s Kill Alex Cross. Usually, I don’t mention the book or the author’s name but I’m hoping James will spend a little of his cash on a medical consultant and am also probably losing out on a chance that he will endorse one of my novels.
Oh well, living on the edge . . . that’s me.
If you have not read the book this post may contain some spoilers you’d rather not know so you have been warned.
At one point in the book, a suspect is kidnapped and he is given “truth serum” in order to get him to divulge the location of the president’s kidnapped children.
The prisoner is given scopolamine.
Well, hmmm. This did cause me to scratch my head a little bit. Why? Well, come to find out this was a drug used once for this purpose in the early 20th century. Where did I discover that? Well from the CIA’s own website. Interesting what a little research will show.
Now– the CIA should know about good truth serum. Here’s what it says about scopolamine:
Because of a number of undesirable side effects, scopolamine was shortly disqualified as a “truth” drug. Among the most disabling of the side effects are hallucinations, disturbed perception, somnolence, and physiological phenomena such as headache, rapid heart, and blurred vision, which distract the subject from the central purpose of the interview. Furthermore, the physical action is long, far outlasting the psychological effects.
And that was my thought– there are much better drug choices.
What scopolamine is used for most these days is as a patch for motion sickness. That’s really the only use I’m aware of.
What James Patterson did say in his book is correct: “Lying is a complex act.”
What “truth serum” drugs really do is loosen inhibitions and makes lying more difficult– not that it can’t be done.
Some better drug choices? Sodium thiopental or some of the benzodiazipines. I revealed something very personal under the influence of Versed given prior to surgery once that I normally would have never disclosed.
Yes, indeed, that was a fun time.
Let me just say– never have surgery at a hospital where you are employed.