Participants in the seminar with the two experts Maximilian Methling and André Niebel (seated, 1st and 2nd from left)
Participants in the seminar with the two experts Maximilian Methling and André Niebel (seated, 1st and 2nd from left)

On 7 and 8 November 2018, the IRZ, together with the Moroccan Public Prosecutor’s Office in Agadir, organised a seminar on “An introduction to toxicology”. This took place as part of the “Cooperation with the Kingdom of Morocco in the field of legal and forensic medicine, with particular consideration paid to the concerns of the Moroccan justice system” project, which the IRZ is coordinating between 2017 and 2019 as part of the project financed by the Federal Foreign Office (Transformation Partnerships with North Africa/the Middle East).

The objective was to give the attending public prosecutors and forensic scientists an overview of the possibilities for detecting various toxic substances. The speakers at the seminar were Maximilian Methling and André Niebel, both of whom work as researchers in Forensic Toxicology at the Institute of Legal and Forensic Medicine at the Charité Berlin.

Following an introduction to the legal framework and terms of forensic toxicology, the two German experts talked about the systems used for toxicological examinations. They explained how urine, blood, hair and organs can be used to make statements about the possible cause of death by various substances. With the help of examples from a large number of selected death cases, the participants were able to form a clear picture of the significance of toxicological examinations in forensic medicine.

In Morocco, there are currently only three laboratories – two in Rabat and one in Casablanca – where samples can be examined. This makes the work of forensic scientists much harder, since the samples can deteriorate during transport and long processing times. This made it all the more important to demonstrate during the seminar how samples are taken at the scene and which substances are no longer detectable in the blood after a short amount of time. Hair analysis takes on particular significance in this respect. Maximilian Methling and André Niebel therefore also went into detail on the advantages and disadvantages of hair analysis.

The participants showed a great deal of interest and made the most of the discussions to ask plenty of questions. They were made aware of the fact that effective legal and forensic medicine requires local laboratories to carry out toxicological tests.
Two further seminars are due to take place on this subject in Morocco in 2019.