Author Question: Drug Testing

My super good friend and author Mark Young is stopping by to challenge me with a medical question. Mark writes great novels and recently won the 2014 National Indie Excellence Awards panel in the Mystery category for his novel Broken Allegiance. Congratulations!

Welcome back to The Edge, Mark.

Mark asks:

I was hoping you could help with a little medical drug testing problem I have in my latest novel.

Here is the situation: My main character, Tom Kagan, is knocked out using the drug Ketamine. Later, when an internal affairs investigator orders blood and  urine samples taken, Kagan also has the hospital take a second sample for himself. 

When the drug test comes back for the cops, it shows nothing in his system. But when Kagan gets his sample back, it show Ketamine in his system.

Here is my question: Can someone provide a sample of a clean blood type that is the same as Kagan’s but is someone else’s, destroy the test sample containing Ketamine, and make it appear that Kagan’s blood is clean? And urine tests, how specific are they tied to an individual? Can anyone provide a sample and make it appear as if it is Tom’s?

Jordyn Says:

It is not routine to “type” someone’s blood unless they need blood. In general, when blood is sent to the lab, we have no idea what type it is. These days, there is a push at many hospitals to label specimens at the bedside to avoid patient ID errors. Many hospitals are also having the patient or family member initial the lab label (that has the patient’s name, DOB, and medical record number) as a double check. The nurse (or collecting provider) then notes a collection time, the date and initials the specimen as well.
Most specimens are sent to the lab via a tube system. Specimens that are collected for legal reasons, I imagine, would also have to maintain the chain of custody.

So, it is possible for a blood specimen to be switched out for someone’s who doesn’t have the ketamine in their system but these are the problems you’ll have to overcome. Switching out the tube but still having the label appear as it normally would. 

You could do a handwritten label. This would be rare but not unusual as long as it had all the identifying characteristics the lab would require. At a minimum, this would be the patient’s name and DOB. Something like the computer system going down could cause something like this to happen. The lab may call to investigate why it was labeled in such a manner which could increase tension/conflict in your scene.

Also, in some situations, specimens are hand-carried to the lab on occasion to ensure delivery. This might well be the case here because there is legal concern and this is when a switch could take place as well.

  
Generally, what is tested for drugs is urine. Here is a post I did on the common, illicit (depending on the state) drugs we look for. You can test for Ketamine but it is going to be a “special order” test. Here is some great info on Ketamine drug testing.

You will have the same issue with a urine sample. Urine isn’t “typed”– it’s not tied to a particular individual except by the label on the cup. Also, if it’s a legal manner, the individual might have to be monitored as they pee to ensure the specimen wasn’t altered or substituted out.

An intriguing scenario you have here. Good luck with your novel!


*******************************************************************

Mark Young is an award-winning author of three previous bestsellers, Revenge(A Travis Mays Novel) and two Gerrit O’Rourke novels, Off the Grid and Fatal eMpulse. Prior to his full-time writing career, Young served as a police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years. Additionally, he was an award-winning journalist and a Vietnam combat veteran. He served with several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. Visit www.MarkYoungBooks.com to find out more about Young and his writing.

Mark Young: Heroes Among Us 2/2

Today, we’re continuing with Mark Young’s posts that reflects how a personal experience provided fodder for the opening scene of his latest novel, Off the Grid. A great read for a great price!

Welcome back, Mark!

They seemed to vanish as we neared where I last saw them. We followed the trail they made for quite a ways without any further sightings. Finally, orders came through to break off and head toward our main camp. Just as we veered off, enemy soldiers opened up. Our machine gunner was the first man hit. My adrenaline kicked in. As I reached for another magazine of ammunition, I realized that I had been hit. Someone yelled “medic” as the jungle around us seemed riddled with enemy fire. I saw a lone corpsman crawling through the brush, working his way toward our position amidst heavy enemy fire. With little regard for his own safety, I watched this man move forward and began to treat each of us who had been hit.

He worked with speed and compassion in what seemed like an impossible situation. Nightfall soon descended and we pulled back a short distance. We could hear movement all around us that night as we waited for morning light. Air support could not reach us until daybreak, and for the moment we were cut off from the rest of our troops. The machine gunner lay mortally wounded, but it took most of the night for him to die. That corpsman stayed with the dying Marine, trying to comfort the injured man at great risk to himself. The dying man occasionally screamed out in pain, and the noise threatened to give our position away. The enemy might have easily lobbed a grenade or fired a shot in our direction, using the howls of pain to locate our position. That brave medic, however, stayed by the dying man’s side until the very end risking his own life.
That corpsman was my idea of a hero.
As I came back into the present and began to write, I tried to remember those moments and make the memory of that corpsman, and others I met on the battle field, a part of what my main character would become—a hero. In this world, we need to witness the courage and bravery lived out in the lives of those around us. We need to find those heroes among us. We saw it in the lives of others when the events of 9/11 changed us forever. Today, there are heroes living among us, normal everyday folk whose bravery might never be known—a nurse comforting the injured, a doctor easing the pain of others. And a corpsman braving a foreign battle field to provide aid and comfort.
Our world needs to see that there are more heroes. That is why readers will always find a hero somewhere in my novels. These main characters will not always be perfect—but they always come through in the end regardless of the cost.

*****************************************************************************

Mark Young is an American novelist. His second novel, Off the Grid, is his first international thriller. Mark was a police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years; an award-winning journalist; and a Vietnam combat veteran. He served with several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. Visit Mark’s blogs for further information at Mark Young: Arresting Fiction… or at his mystery blog site Hook’em & Book’em.

Mark Young: Heroes Among Us 1/2

Mark Young is a good friend and talented writer. I have read the opening scene of Off The Grid and it is gripping! I highly suggest you pick this novel up.

Welcome, Mark!

One of the bravest people I ever met was a navy corpsman who came to my rescue on a battlefield many years ago.

As an author, creating fiction sometimes forces you to relive moments of your own life that you might otherwise suppress—maybe even try to forget. As I began creating my main character, Gerrit O’Rourke, in my latest novel, Off the Grid, one of these moments came crashing through from the past.

I began creating Gerrit as a lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps in the opening prologue. The scene opens during a military operation in Iraq, dubbed Phantom Fury, one of several hard-fought operations to gain control over the city of Faluja, in 2004. It was an intense fight between Marines and enemy combatants. Many military veterans likened these battles to the conflict to gain control of Hue City, in Vietnam, more than forty years ago, door-to-door firefights that by their very nature create heavy casualties.
As this character developed in my mind, I brushed aside the cob webs and relived moments of my own experience in the Marines during the Vietnam conflict. It was 1968. Our company had sustained 120 percent casualties in the battle over Hue City. I and my fellow Marines, fresh from the states, became replacements for those killed or injured in that conflict.
We were moved from that battlefield to the mountain tops along what was dubbed the Ho Chi Minh trail, a jungle pathway weaving through the countries of Laos and Cambodia, along the Vietnamese borders. This network of jungle trails, beneath heavy jungle foliage, was being used by the enemy to move troops and equipment from North Vietnam into South Vietnam. We were charged with providing protection to engineers, as they built mountaintop landing zones (LZs) to allow helicopters to land troops and equipment into the area.
One day my platoon was sent out to scout the mountain slopes around this LZ. It had been raining, and fog hugged the mountains in a chokehold. At times, it seemed visibility extended to the end of my nose. I had been selected to walk point that day. We worked our way quite a ways from the LZ, and it was getting late in the day.
At one point the lieutenant directed us to start heading back home. Leading our platoon down the mountain side, I saw movement further down the slope, figures like gray ghosts working their way through the fog. These ghosts turned out to be North Vietnamese and Chinese soldiers. I was ordered to start following them to see if we might locate their main body of troops….

Mark concludes on Wednesday!

******************************************************************************

Mark Young is an American novelist. His second novel, Off the Grid, is his first international thriller. Mark was a police officer with the Santa Rosa Police Department in California for twenty-six years; an award-winning journalist; and a Vietnam combat veteran. He served with several law enforcement task force operations, including the presidential Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force targeting major drug traffickers, and the federal Organized Crime Task Force charged with identifying and prosecuting prison gang leaders. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his family. Visit Mark’s blogs for further information at Mark Young: Arresting Fiction… or at his mystery blog site Hook’em & Book’em.