Interview with Luis Ravanal / "Clarin", Chile



Mexico City. - In an interview with Luis Ravanal Clarí (1965), MA in Forensic Medicine, University of Valencia, analyzes the case Neruda: "In relation to a possible lethal poisoning Dipyrone ® (Metamizole Sodium), would be sought substances associated with chemical compounds that are degraded, which is technically and theoretically possible, depending on the type and state of the sample ". And on the transfer of the bones of the poet to Isla Negra, Dr. Ravanal says: "The environmental conditions where the body was, coupled with changing conditions during exhumation processes undoubtedly represent factors that can accelerate the destruction and loss of evidence. However, they can also contribute to maintaining moisture remains ... can in some cases be a factor preservative as to turn a decay accelerating factor. "

MC. - Doctor, studied court documents and medical Neruda Case?
LR. - I have no knowledge about the existence of a history or documentation of the actual conditions in which the poet was in the days before his death, only the information provided by the lawyer Eduardo Contreras, and a series of queries departing from the sayings of several witnesses, including former driver. Therefore, it is essentially a testimonial information, technical information rather than objectified, therefore this information should be evaluated very carefully, looking through the application of scientific method, if this is verifiable and / or confirmable, what in this case and given the circumstances it is extremely complex.

MC. - The death certificate and the report in The Mercury of September 24, 1973, differ in clinical terms. Does cancer cachexia can lead to cardiac arrest?
LR. - A cardiac arrest is a functional event, which in simple terms, is the event that precedes death, with a sign on which is based the diagnosis of death, regardless of the cause in which it occurred, by disease or trauma - it is simply the cessation of contractile activity of the heart, is a sign, not a cause of death. Obviously a state of cachexia, as well as advanced cancer, like any other condition, it can cause cardiac arrest, ie it can lead to death, by various means and / or mechanisms. A state of cachexia, cancer metastatic spread, asphyxia, a gunshot wound, trauma, etc. can cause cardiac arrest and cardiac arrest, which may lead to death.

MC. - Rule out the possibility of a medical malpractice cause of death of the poet?
LR. - The medical malpractice, is also a possibility that can not be overlooked in the investigation of the circumstances connected with the death of Pablo Neruda, so it must be the forensic analysis of all the facts relevant to one timely and appropriate application of media in health care that would have been granted, during the days before his death, which could be related to therapeutic omissions and / or health care.

MC. - Associated Press published excerpts of the interview you gave: "One thing is to identify the substance, but quite another to demonstrate that it is in sufficient concentrations to kill him. I mean, it was difficult to show that lethal doses or therapeutic "(13/01/2012). Is there scientific technology in overseas laboratories to clarify the alleged murder?
LR. - All depends on the type of sample or tissue, and the conditions in which they are the same. Since the destruction of the tissues as a result of natural processes of degradation of a body, are factors that will limit the possibilities of analysis, the greater has been the time since death, the less chance of success in research especially with regard to toxicological studies, which in turn depend on the type of substance to be investigated, the volatiles are gone-, orientation or interest from making the analysis.
For substances to be investigated, which will influence the selection of samples is, techniques of collection, preservation and analysis instrument selection, recalling that various analytical instruments and techniques which are applied selectively depending on the substance to be wants to investigate. In Chile, there are usually several teams to detect toxic substances, most of them university research centers, as well as several private laboratories. The usual techniques not possible to cover the entire spectrum of analytes, and there are a number of specific tests are performed only because of the experience and intuition of the doctor who performed the autopsy, which obviously can be a determining factor in the course of the investigation .

MC. - The first Neruda exhumation took place in 1974, during the dictatorship, the second exhumation of Neruda's funeral was held for officer in 1992, during the government of Patricio Aylwin. Would it be necessary to verify the third exhuming the remains belong to Neruda, or to find out for sure that no bone fragment is lost?
LR. - Should be an exhumation, the first thing to be performed is the identification of the remains, and under it is skeletal remains indubitable proof of identification can be established through genetic studies. Unlike what has happened with the remains of former President Salvador Allende Gossens, which were lost a significant amount of skull fragments (about 50%), and therefore no specialized equipment in such circumstances would have ruled out the existence of a shot under different caliber obvious explosive damage caused by war rifle, any layman can recognize at first glance, is the longing, not to repeat the mistakes made in the case of Allende. As expressed by a noted medical examiner regarding the conclusions of the reports of exhumation of Salvador Allende in 2011: "They wanted to see what they saw. A much more objective would have been to say something like: We did not find anything that goes against the official version and we have not ruled out anything that allows another theory. But that's asking too much. "

MC. - Climatic conditions in Isla Negra could dissolve toxins or drug residues?
LR. - The environmental conditions where the body was, together with the variable conditions that have been exposed to the body during exhumation processes undoubtedly represent factors that can accelerate the destruction and loss of evidence. However, they can also help preserve the remains, depending on multiple variables, which can not be objectified with the information I have. In any case depends on the substance variable shape and specific conditions, where the moisture can sometimes be a factor preservative turn as a factor which accelerates decomposition.

MC. - Neruda's driver, Manuel Araya report insists that the poet complained of a suspicious injection into the batting, while dipyrone and insulin are usually injected into the stomach? Irrelevant site drug application for cause fatal?, what track when the substance in the bone marrow?
LR. - Any testimony must be subjected to analysis and confirmation of scientific proof, however the site of injection of a substance (s) (s), whatever, should be checked by forensics. In this case, the injection site at the abdomen, objectively could not be confirmed or ruled out through the study of skeletonized remains. Substances that can not be detected even in recent deaths if appropriate samples are collected and the specific analyzes are performed, as in the case of insulin, which in this case would be impossible to detect. In relation to possible lethal intoxication ® Dipyrone (Metamizol), would have sought the substances associated with the chemical compounds that are degraded, which is technically and theoretically possible, depending on the type and condition of the samples. What is extremely difficult to prove, if not impossible, is the determination of whether the concentrations detected in certain tissues (the current state of science), are found in therapeutic concentrations, toxic or lethal, so to avoid opinions forensic, technical unsubstantiated or hypothetical, that would have been based on the simple detection of trace substances belonging to various compounds without detecting the specific compound, as happened in the case of research related to the remains of former President Eduardo Frei Montalva, where objectively would not have detected the presence of mustard gas.

MC. - In the case of President Salvador Allende, his daughter Elizabeth authorized the exhumation, though pressed the judge and the media to advance the results. In Case Neruda, Juan Agustín Figueroa opposes the exhumation, calling it a "desecration". How much influence journalistic statements of those directly involved?
LR. - There is no doubt that we live in a society where social media influence behavior and opinion of the people. Prejudices are published, that reach all the actors and others involved in the process through the various media in which we are immersed. While we can not be oblivious to this reality communications, scientific evidence should be valued for what it is and not get the results you want certain individual or individuals. In my practice I have had to attend trials for crimes where the accused has already been convicted by the media long before the trial, are not limited to disqualification of the technical opinion contradictory, but sometimes experts the discrediting undergo individualized, so that one must be prepared to withstand all kinds of ad hominem insults directed personally, before, during and after trial. Remember that scientific researchers, police and justice administrators are human, and therefore imperfect, hence the scientific importance of the objective test, which should be technically adjusted to the scientific method.

MC. - In an interview with Mario Carroza Clarí Judge said: "The exhumation of Neruda would in the same circumstances as the one made by President Allende" (11/21/2011). Does the analogy should reassure or worry?
LR. - The statement that tells me is nonspecific, since each case is invariably in different circumstances, both technical and social. What should concern us is that the test is valued to the highest scientific standards, not meddle titles, the number of participants and what they say. The test should be objective, technical quality, the experts do not come to ratify a cause and mechanism of death, must also transparent its limitations, about the difficulties concerning the analysis of the evidence and conclusions. That is why justice administrators play a leading role, which is expected to exhaust the media in the field of scientific research, especially when there are controversial technical grounds must attend, as has happened in the case of limited examination of the remains Salvador Allende, which is expected to carry out various analyzes unrealized.

MC. - When asked Rocio Montes of the country: - "Is there a chance that you will never know how Neruda died?", Judge Mario Carroza replied - "It could happen" (04/12/2011). Doctor, what would the verdict if the judge lacks certainty and scientific elements?
LR. - Not incumbent on me to answer by a judge, I can only respond as coroner (negative response): The various analytical results performed on the remains tested, have failed to confirm or rule out a violent death associated with lethal poisoning. That is, in this hypothetical case, we would have an absolutely useless autopsy results, to clarify a fact.

MC. - Finally, would you be interested in working with forensic experts?, Would the plaintiff be invited as an observer?
LR. - It is always interesting to work together, no one owns the absolute truth, as there is no manual to ensure an outcome, considering the variability of what is intended to investigate. The important thing is to always cooperate with the investigation objectively and not hinder.
I can not vouch for the plaintiff, only merely informed me that I have been consulted informally by technical, nothing more.