Convicted of Manslaughter, in administering "Morison's Pills," and fined Two Hundred Pounds, 4th of April, 1836
AT the Central Criminal Court sessions which commenced on Monday, the 4th of April, 1836, Mr Robert Salmon, a medicine vendor in Farringdon Street, was indicted for the manslaughter of Mr John M'Kenzie, by administering to him certain large and excessive quantities of pills composed of gamboge, cream of tartar and other noxious and deleterious ingredients.
The deceased was the master of a vessel, and lived in the neighbourhood of Commercial Road. He was induced to take some of "Morison's Pills" as a purgative, upon the representations of a Mrs Lane, a woman who was employed by his wife as a sempstress, and who sold the Hygeian medicines. Subsequently Mr Salmon's aid was claimed, on account of his suffering from rheumatism in the knee, and he recommended increased and still- increasing doses, until at length the deceased became so ill that his life was placed in jeopardy. Medical aid was now called in, but it was too late, and death soon put an end to his sufferings. A post- mortem examination left no doubt that the medicine prescribed by the prisoner had been the cause of this termination of the case, and the present indictment was in consequence preferred.
On the part of the defendant a great many persons were called from all parts of the kingdom, who stated that they had taken large quantities of these pills, with the very best results, as a means of cure for almost every species of malady to which the human frame was subject. One person stated that he had taken no fewer than twenty thousand of them in two years, and had found infinite relief from swallowing them in very large doses.
Mr Justice Patteson left the case to the jury, who had to decide upon the facts which had been proved; and after about half-an- hour's consideration they found a verdict of guilty, with a recommendation to mercy -- upon the ground that the defendant was not the compounder, but only the vendor, of the medicines.
On the following Saturday, the 9th of April, the defendant was brought up to receive judgment. The learned judge sentenced him to pay a fine of two hundred pounds, and added: "I think it right to caution you that, in the event of your being again found guilty of conduct of a similar description, the character of your offence will be materially altered. I hope that the punishment which is now inflicted on you will deter others from rashly administering medicines, with the nature of which they are unacquainted, in large quantities, as the result may be fatal."