Potassium and the “white death”: what they mean and why they may be important in research

Within the range of hypotheses operated by those responsible for the Inquisition regarding neonatal hospital deaths, one of the main ones is linked to the potential application of potassium.

Forensic analysis done after the deaths and forensic analysis done in the coming days will be important in the investigation. The high levels of potassium found in the bodies of some babies can determine the cause.

To understand what’s being talked about “the white death” and potassium injections, PROFILE CÓRDOBA spoke with Mario Vignolo from San Francisco, one of the province’s most experienced coroners, who has been known to many high-profile coroners. Profile crimes had to intervene. Country.

“White death is a broad concept. An expert on the subject such as Michael Vargas Sanabria has written much on the subject. They are the deaths of children, especially infants, in sudden deaths in general and with a definite diagnosis. It is not always possible to reach,” he defined.

“In general terms, they are unexpected deaths in children, without an obvious and farsighted pathology. Death of potassium results in immediate and irreversible cardiac arrest. Potassium is a drug that is used when needed in adults and children , because it is a cardiac stimulant. In forensic analysis, experts analyze signs or indications that confirm or refute the hypothesis of the use of this element”, said the expert, who is currently the president of the Association of Forensic Doctors of Argentina Huh.

potassium in sight

Potassium is an element that must be handled with extreme care. To understand the lethal potential of this element, suffice it to say that potassium chloride is part of the components of lethal injection used by some states in the United States.

Regarding traces or indications that leave the use of potassium on the body with anthropomorphic intentions, Vignolo explained: “When it is used medically, potassium is usually administered intravenously or by very slow drip. Is. Uncontrolled injections often lead to cardiac arrest. If it is placed maliciously, it can cause injuries such as ulcers or inflammation of tissues, mainly when it is placed outside the bloodstream,” he said.

For the doctor, the time factor is essential to determine what happened and arrive at the truth: “The timing of the autopsy is very important. There is a saying among forensic experts that ‘time passes the truth goes away’, but In this case I believe that truth can be reached in the investigation. They are very similar cases. The clinical history, data on the procedures and all the medical documents related to these deaths would be very valuable,” he explained.

Other cases in the world

Vignolo reviewed world famous cases where potassium was used as a tool to take lives: “The Angel of Death, Janine Jones, was a nurse who killed over 60 people, many of them children. They all have in common the fact that they began investigations after unexpected deaths, which attracted attention. In general, they are very brutal cases involving obsessive people, those with psychiatric disorders, who have acted in very reserved ways. worked with.”

In Italy, Daniela Pogiali, a nurse with 17 years of experience and a hospital worker in Lugo, Italy, was charged with 38 deaths after high levels of potassium were found in the dead patients.

The San Francisco doctor also commented that he was personally the source of consultation in other provincial and national cases where the use of potassium was suspected to cause deaths.


Mario Vignolo, in addition to his work as a coroner, was for 17 years the director of the Ituraspe Hospital in the eastern city of Córdoba. From there, he had a strong relationship with the hospital that is currently under investigation: “Hospita el mater no neonatal is an institution that I know very well and with whom I have during my time as director of Ituraspe. There was a lot of contact. It is a reputed institution in the field not only in Cordoba but at the country level. The best professionals work there in the nascent sector of Cordoba. It is a pity that he is going through this, so it is important that Let it be investigated and the truth reached. The best thing that can be done now to not affect that reputation is to thoroughly investigate what happened and personally I am sure That the truth will come out,” he concluded.

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