20 October 2009

RU-486 or RU-Thick?

I first heard the news on the radio, most probably Radio-5-lies, that a doctor had been found guilty of trying to poison his ex-lover. The story explained how he had tried to induce an abortion in her by dosing her drinks containing prescription drugs: the drugs weren't soluble. They left a white powder in the bottom of her drink (orange juice) which analysis revealed to be an abortion drug.

Poirot's little grey cells wouldn't break into a sweat banging him to rights, thought I.

The idea of a general practitioner - not a proper doctor, you understand - being caught out by his ignorance of the drugs that he was using was a trifle amusing. Hence the 'oh-aren't-I-clever-pun' in the title of this post; RU-486 is an abortion inducing drug. Geddit?

But I discover that the chap isn't a general practitioner but a proper doctor: his doctorate was awarded by an institute after academic research and study; not as a consequence of public ignorance. I further discover that his doctorate is in pharmacology from a report in the Times, "Dr Edward Erin 'was not sure Bella Prowse's baby was his'", which in part says, "... Dr Erin, who has a Phd in Pharmacology, ...".

Hang on a minute? Someone with a PhD in pharmacology not understanding about drug solubility?


A massive part of pharmacology is the study of the solubility of drugs. It's hardly surprising that his wife is saying, "It's a miscarriage of justice, says poison doctor's wife".

As to what happens now, I don't know. In the absence of any new evidence or a failure in the application of the law, there are no grounds for appeal. It looks as though he has to do his time.

I wasn't on the jury or in the court but from what I've read it doesn't make sense to convict him. Does anyone know anything different?


  1. I totally agree with you, this is totally wrong, I can;t understand how the jury came to a verdict of guilty , they could not have understood the science of it at all.As a scientist with a PhD myself it is obvious that Dr Erin would not have done such a pointless exercise, it sounds like a very amateur attempt and not the actions of a clearly well educated man. What is the next step ? This sounds like a case of miscarriage of justice, something should be done.

  2. I followed the case from a professional interest perspective. I have to agree that for someone with Erin's background it's senseless to try to spike drinks with drugs that are not soluble?? Clearly the jury just didn't get it.

  3. anons 12.07 and 12.17.

    Unless there is new evidence or a failing of the application of the law is uncovered, there is very little that he can do.

    Bear in mind that the reporting of these things is usually poor; nevertheless, from a technical point of view, it doesn't make sense that he should make such an obvious error.