On The Attempted Distraction Of George Floyd’s Autopsy Toxicology Results

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Saw some people posting about the (family) autopsy toxicology results for George Floyd. Specifically, 11ng/ml fentanyl, 5.6 ng/ml norfentanyl, 0.65 ng/ml 4-ANPP, and 19 ng/ml methamphetamine.

It’s easy to take a look at those, and just make an auto-leap; in fact, a series of auto-leaps. Either to the obvious “so that’s what killed him”, if you’re looking for an alternate causation that’s not knee-on-neck prime; or, more insidiously, “no great loss, then”, if you’re suddenly less bothered a man’s dead because that’s what the tox-screen says was in him.

Except here’s the thing. Those numbers are just that. Numbers. There’s no context to them – and no real way of checking, in the absence of better data, what they actually tell us or hide from sight.

They don’t necessarily support the conclusions some people are quite keen to jump to. And the fact that people citing them aren’t taking a bit more of a critical look before speaking, is concerning.

For a start – unless I’m mistaken, levomethamphetamine containing decongestants are still over-the-counter available in the U.S.

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If he was suffering from Covid-19, it’s not unreasonable to presume he might have made use of just such a medication.

Even though it’s the other isomer from dextroamphetamine, it’ll still show up as meth in a lot of tox-screens.

Funnily enough, a few years back, an actress called Brittany Murphy had something like this happen. Died of pneumonia, and initially due to tox-screen results, it was also chalked up to polydrug intoxication .. with the usual “actress ODs” type inferences. Except that wasn’t really what happened – everything that turned up in the tox-screen was legally there, including the (levo)methamphetamine. She’d had an illness, taken something over-the-counter for it [in addition, to be sure, to several other medications for other conditions she was also suffering from at the time] … and yet if you just looked for the presence of methamphetamine in her system without understanding why it was there, you’d come away with the conclusion that she was a recreational practitioner of the glassware barbeque.

Back to George Floyd.

The level of meth stated to have been found in his blood – 19 nanograms per millilitre – is pretty low. However, in the absence of more and better data, we can’t really determine much more about this, in terms of why it might have been in his system, whether it’s a false positive, or simply an over-the-counter decongestant doing what it was supposed to do.

Although what I will say is that the lack of amphetamine (as opposed to methamphetamine) detected in his bloodstream, would support either a very low recent dose, or a somewhat larger dose some time ago (like, days); either because there’s been insufficient time for the meth to metabolize to amphetamine in the former possibility, or because enough time has passed that the meth metabolized to amphetamine has been eliminated from his system to a point below a detectable level leaving only residual meth.

As applies the fentanyl … there are further potential complications.

There are several legitimate psychiatric medications that can cause false-positives in tox-screens for fentanyl; although given the presence of norfentanyl and 4-ANPP, that’s perhaps less likely (but still not impossible).

Assuming that it’s not a false-positive, 11 nanograms fentanyl per millilitre of blood would be notably at the higher end of the therapeutic use spectrum (although significantly within the range wherein if it were to come up at an autopsy it would ordinarily be held to be ‘incidental’ to cause of death).

However, this is considerably complicated by a number of factors – including the way in which fentanyl (particularly if patch administered) stored in fat, muscle, skin etc. can start to leach into the bloodstream as tissue breaks down post-mortem. Which effectively means there’s no definitive way to tell post-mortem how much fentanyl was actually in the deceased’s bloodstream pre-mortem.

What’s peculiar is the relatively low presence of norfentanyl. Now, the reason I mention this … is because the vast majority of fentanyl in somebody’s system is reasonably quickly metabolized to norfentanyl – so unless it had been significantly recently administered, you shouldn’t be expecting to see, post-use about half the level of norfentanyl in somebody’s system that there is fentanyl.

All up, it’s a finding that probably doesn’t indicate what either ‘side’ were hoping for; but which again – is too ambiguous in multiple senses to be heavily read into.

Now it should also be noted that there are some further issues with the precise reliability for quick-return post-mortem drug-screening. So if I was actually particularly interested in the contents of George Floyd’s blood-stream, I’d be awaiting a more full and comprehensive workup using better assessment techniques.

But frankly, I’m not that bothered about it – because I think that regardless of whether or not there’s a literally microscopic residue of an illicit drug in the man’s system … that wasn’t the but-for causation for the death.

But-for a pretty bizarre extended knee-on-neck there wouldn’t even have been a post-mortem tox-screen for us to pour over through the press.

And frankly (further), it feels kinda ghoulish for that to happen in the first place – the contents of a man’s blood as a substitute for the man’s being .. being sifted through by people looking to turn a sample-slide into a two-dimensional cut-out for an agenda.

There isn’t much dignity to be had in dying, face into the pavement, on camera (although it can perhaps be argued that thousands chanting your name turning you into a symbol … may or may not possess a dignitas all its own); and having total strangers on the internet idly prognosticate as to whether you might have been on several kinds of psych meds, or run through a half a dozen other potential explanations for your blood-stream contents (up to and including the dreaded and dehumanizing label of “addict”) .. feels like a set of degradations further.

I wouldn’t be indulging in it, except for the fact that – as I say – I’ve already seen a number of people do so, and far less critically (or, if you prefer, far less ‘charitably’ to other potential narratives, other potential explanations than the ‘easy’ and convenient one for some).

There may be (partial) answers to the underpinnings of George Floyd’s death to be found in this autopsy report. Of course there are. It would be difficult to deny that possessing an already-impaired cardiovascular system … would hardly improve one’s odds of coming away unscathed from spending eight minutes plus with your neck weighed down under a full-grown man’s knee.

But that’s just precisely the point. Now that another autopsy’s out, people looking to distract from that curious knee which now protrudes through our current affairs and future history books – people are going to latch on to various ‘displacement narratives’ which can be even semi-feasibly extrapolated out therefrom.

Because, I suppose, the idea is it’s easier to feel less compassion for somebody who theoretically ‘brought it upon themselves’. Except not by, say, having a high-fat diet like many Americans. There’s still too much for much of the audience to empathize with there.

Instead, it’s back to the 1980s by fitting the victim into a pre-designed bete-noir role in the story of the “man on drugs”. Something that would have been (and was) said regardless of whether there was any proof of anything in his system to begin with.

Perhaps I’m a soft touch – but I still don’t think anything contained in that autopsy report means that he should have died like that.

11 COMMENTS

  1. George Floyd would be alive today if his neck hadn’t been crushed by a cop. The people who choose to fixate on his history, which probably has little or no relevance to his demise, are the same people who don’t want to look into the pre-existing conditions of those supposedly dying from Covid. Defence lawyers will probably use the same egg shell defending or worse, as in Grace Millane’s case where she was portrayed as a sexual deviant rather than someone exploring life.

    • He was a nuanced person cheated of life. This is the trouble when media and activists try to turn him into an Angel.

  2. I don’t blame the rioters for pulling the plug. I would have as well after seeing a black man get publicly lynched. The state would have to kill me if they denied Floyd his justice.

  3. Well said Popeye and Sam.

    I too am shocked but not surprised that the dim-witted unintelligent types are banging on about George Floyd’s prior alleged criminal history and the apparent existence of substances in his system – I am not referring to you Curwen because your comments are excellent.

    Quite frankly, what does drugs in George Floyd’s system or his background have to do with anything? The types that are damning George Floyd do not realise that they are also damning the many, many cops in the USA who are also disgusted at his killing – like the Police Chief in Los Angeles (I think) who said to the crowd – “he does not represent us”, meaning that the killer-cop does not represent his Police; and the cop who hugged the African-American woman on her motor-scooter; and the cop in NY who bent on one knee in solidarity with the protesters; and the national guard who laid down their shields as a symbolic gesture of disgust and in support of the protesters.

    To those who choose to damn George Floyd and make no mention of what the cop did to him I say this – you are endorsing a callous and brutal killing of an African American man who was not struggling; who was handcuffed and who could not breathe. You endorse racism and bigotry and you display a callous disregard for human life if it is lost in circumstances which threaten your narrow narrative and pathetically myopic view of the world. To say he is not deserving of the outcry that has erupted around the world is to say that he deserved to die and the cop who killed him was justified in killing him. Those sort of words that you express are bordering on hate speech and it is you who should be dammed for who you are and what you believe in.

    Popeye, your reference to words “egg shell” are very well put. It is not something I have not heard of before but as I understand it, it means you cannot rely on the unknown frailty of the victim as a defence in tort law and in criminal law. I looked at Wikipedia on this and it includes this statement – “The eggshell skull rule takes into account the physical, social and economic attributes of the plaintiff which might make them more susceptible to injury. It may also take into account the family and cultural environment.”

    Whichever way you look at it, this was a brutal, callous and unjustified killing of an African-American man. His statement – “I can’t breathe” is a metaphor for the lives of the African-Americans in the USA and I applaud the world-wide protests over the killing.

    Sam, your final words are very powerful and moving. I applaud you.

    No doubt I will be damned by some of the types I have referred to above as some sort of “woke snowflake” for saying what I have said but those who choose to place those sorts of labels on me and others like me I think you should take a long hard look at yourselves in the mirror. There you will see a reflection of the ugly face of hatred, racism and bigotry.

  4. Anyone who has done a smidgen of the combat ‘arts’ knows the carotid artery can be attacked with pressure, including with a knee to the neck. There is the ‘sleeper hold’ which attacks it , and the ‘choker hold’ which attacks the the airways. Both are banned in many police jurisdictions. A ‘knife hand’ horizontal attack to the side of the neck aiming for the carotid artery will drop you in 1 second, we practiced this in Japanese jujitsu. You experience a sudden black out and your knees go out from under you.

    The ‘drugs’ theory is B.S , that cop had been trained, and knew exactly what he was doing.

  5. I’m going to say something people won’t like. And I would say the same for any person accused of murder, cop or known psycho killer.
    The defendant deserves a fair trial. So far I’m reading opinions from people who have decided guilt and how they see it, what evidence should be permissable etc. Its fine to have an opinion but that is where it should stop.
    If we are to have respect for justice then the scales must be even, for even the worst accusations.
    My fear here is that the cops won’t get a fair trial because this has become totally politicised. Guilty or not this is lynch mob territory. Allow that and anything goes, anything is permissible . I’d advise extreme caution.

  6. “if only he had exercised more he wouldn’t have died from having a knee held down on his neck for 8 mins and 45 secs which he didn’t die from ,,except but oh wait he did ” … ” Medical examiner and family commissioned autopsy agree: George Floyds death was a homicide ”

    4 minute mark …. https://youtu.be/iGxfNl9C6CQ

    5 min 40 secs in the above video for a mini roll call of unarmed black Americans shot and killed by police ,,, including one man in a wheelchair.

    … and from Nov 2019 “How Cops Are Trained To Shoot You In Your Home – SOME MORE NEWS”
    https://youtu.be/tuzQrbio2Qw

  7. Instead of going for a plea deal, the officer should fight this case in court and go for an impartial jury since if he get its, tough to convict him of anything more then voluntary manslaughter and even that is iffy. Impartial justice has been thrown out the window for the four officers especially the 3 who did not place their knees on the guys neck.

    The video I link to shows some important evidence that the media downplay. Floyd struggled with police and refused to peacefully go into the car. He either fell on purpose or collapsed to the ground from that struggle combined with all of the drugs he was on with fentanyl obviously being the worst one. And during that struggle police were hardly roughing him up at least in the 3 minutes of the footage I have seen. Police say it was a 10 minute struggle before Floyd was on the ground and the state of MN hasn’t released those videos yet and if they do, it will probably make the officers actions not look as bad since the incident will be put in context. But it was at least a 3 minute struggle and I will include the Youtube link. It shows how biased US national media really is since they rarely report how much Floyd was resisting arrest and the fact he complained about inability to breath while he was still standing. If the goal was to murder Floyd on purpose, why try to bring him into the police car peacefully?

    George Floyd was on heavy amount of fentanyl then he resisted police for 3 to 10 minutes and that is what probably doomed him in the absence of medical care arriving sooner. Is it the officer’s fault it took so long for medical care to arrive? Floyd the tapes show had trouble breathing before the officers did anything with his neck. This is sometimes happens with fentanyl and exertion.

    And the officers asked Floyd if he was on anything and they didn’t get an honest answer making their jobs harder.

    Now should the lead officer have handled things differently and taken the knee off the neck much sooner…for sure but the knee on the neck may have been a part of their training after a suspect refuses to comply and actively resists. I don’t agree with those officer actions in this case or that type of training especially after handcuffs are already on the suspect but Floyd was a very strong guy that based upon the video was not easy to control. Even much weaker people than him tough to control when on certain drugs. Who knows what the officer was thinking at the time. Was he afraid of being spit on, did he just want to calm him until medics arrived or did he snap and truly want to kill Floyd on purpose?

    Again the lead officer losing his job and being arrested for some sort of manslaughter appears reasonable but the other 3 officers should not have been charged with anything. And the media should have covered this in an unbiased fashion stating that regardless of what the coroner’s reports said — at best a good guess — it is crazy to think the guy on heavy amounts of fentanyl/other drugs and resisting arrest didn’t contribute to his death.

  8. Fentanyl and meth .? That is straight insanity my ex was on both became a non human monster ? From hell and heart disease ? Massive ? an Covid ? Wrong ! Go riot over the 3 trillion stolen that money can run our country for 3 years ! Fight real battles not race riots ? There are 3 races get over it stop whining ? Mongoloid Nigroid Caucasian and if you’re not an American just go back to where you came from this is now America used to be British Russian French Spanish lands ca. Had no slaves non was Spain us stole it ? Oh well USA now anybody on fentanyl is a piece of garbage or meth for that matter I don’t care if you just tried it once your garbage

  9. Fentanyl and meth .? That is straight insanity my ex was on both became a non human monster ? From hell and heart disease ? Massive ? an Covid ? Wrong ! Go riot over the 3 trillion stolen that money can run our country for 3 years ! Fight real battles not race riots ? There are 3 races get over it stop whining ? Mongoloid Nigroid Caucasian and if you’re not an American just go back to where you came from this is now America used to be British Russian French Spanish lands ca. Had no slaves non was Spain us stole it ? Oh well USA now anybody on fentanyl is a piece of garbage or meth for that matter I don’t care if you just tried it once your garbage

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