National Medical Services Forensic Testing and Analysis Leads to Guilty Plea for Michael 'Dr. Death' Swango.
WILLOW GROVE, Pa.--(BW HealthWire)--Sept. 13, 2000
Cutting edge forensic analysis and testimony performed by the forensic science laboratory team at National Medical Services (NMS), Willow Grove, Pa., provided federal investigators with crucial evidence that led to the guilty plea of Michael Swango in U.S. District Court last week.
Also known as "Dr. Death," the former physician admitted to fatally poisoning three patients in a Long Island Veterans Affairs hospital in 1993. He was sentenced to 3 consecutive life terms in a maximum-security prison without parole or appeal.
Commissioned by the Department of Veteran Affairs' Inspector General's Office, National Medical Services developed innovative testing and analysis methods to identify, extract and isolate the chemicals Swango used to poison his victims from tissue specimens collected from their exhumed bodies. These included two commonly used hospital compounds: the muscle relaxant succinyl choline and the heart stimulant epinephrine.
Last week, the Inspector General of the Department of Veteran Affairs presented a bronze eagle award to NMS founder and Forensic Toxicologist, Fredric Rieders, Ph.D., and to Kevin Ballard, M.D., Ph.D., the company's director of research and development, in recognition of their "extraordinary scientific efforts" which led to the resolution of this seven-year-old case.
"The testing and analysis methods developed by NMS will have long-range impact on law enforcement and the judicial system as well as forensic medicine," said Rieders, a Forensic Toxicology expert. "This should serve as a warning and a deterrent to those who would commit a crime using these and other previously undetectable compounds. You cannot outsmart present day science. These drugs are now detectable."
"The availability of these methods will have an impact on many existing cases," noted Ballard. "It may well enable many older homicide cases to be solved. We predict that the entire judicial system will move toward using analyses such as ours that are very specific to ensure reliability," noted Ballard. "In the future, nothing less will be acceptable."
Ballard led the company's efforts to develop the new testing and analysis methodology, surmounting several significant challenges.
"Succinyl choline and epinephrine are difficult compounds to isolate due to their inherent properties," explained Rieders. "This challenge was magnified by the fact that each tissue specimen was unique. Some came from embalmed bodies, others were not embalmed. And these bodies had been buried for many years in various places."
"We were also racing against time," said Michael F. Rieders, Ph.D., Forensic Toxicologist and NMS president and CEO. "We had just a few months to complete a tremendous amount of work against the deadline of Swango's release from prison on fraud charges. This included dedicating the time of our top forensic science experts and bringing online the most advanced technology available for this kind of testing."
To crack the Swango case, NMS used liquid chromatography tandem and time of flight mass spectrometry- two of the most sensitive and specific types of analytical forensic testing technology available.
"This technology combined with the new methods we developed to extract and isolate chemicals from tissue specimens enabled us to detect the compounds used by Swango with great specificity and confidence in our analysis," stated Ballard who specializes in analytical molecular science.
"At NMS, we take pride in the service of justice through forensic science," says Michael Rieders. "We're also committed to innovation and cutting edge thinking to solve tough problems. The families of Swango's victims deserved to know what happened to their loved ones. Thanks to our new testing and analysis methods, we've been able to answer their questions and help ensure that justice is served."
National Medical Services is a full-service independent laboratory offering comprehensive analytical and consultative services in forensic and clinical toxicology, criminalistics, therapeutic drug monitoring, consumer product integrity testing, biopharmaceutical support services, environmental/occupational toxicology as well as research and development. Founded in 1970, NMS maintains a complete staff of forensic scientists and technical support personnel on call 24 hours a day all year round (24/7/365). The company's scientific results are supported through expert opinion reporting and expert testimony to stand up to the penetrating light of courtroom scrutiny.
Visit the National Medical Services web site at www.nmslab.com.
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|Date:||Sep 13, 2000|
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