This post is dedicated to the memory of Ling ‘Carrie’ Wang.
I have never met Carrie, but her death has been reported in a few papers. Details of how and why she died are hard to come by. The coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure, and there’s some information in this article in the Daily Mail, and this article in the Newcastle Chronicle.
Here’s what we know, and what’s missing:
- the newspapers don’t say exactly when she died; maybe that’s not important
- the immediate cause of death seems to be liver failure
- it is not known why she suffered liver failure, but there is speculation that she might had a reaction to Chinese Herbal Medicine.
There’s not much else. Maybe the coroner had more information, but it hasn’t made it into the newspapers. If I lived in Newcastle I would take a look at the records of the coroner’s court, but I’m a long way away in London.
Let’s go with the coroner’s best guess; the cause of her death may have been a Chinese herbal remedy called Jin Bu Huan (JBH) which is derived from Stephania or Polyglala plants. It doesn’t sound as though the coroner has a sample of the medicine. Back in the 1990’s JBH was associated with a number of cases of liver failure and death in the USA, and I suppose the symptoms were like Carrie’s case. However those cases seem to have involved either long term self-administration, overdose, or contamination. JBH has been off the radar since the millennium, and I have tried without success to find a source of over-the-counter JBH through online shops such as Acumedic and Greenherbs.
I’m not impressed with the coroner’s conclusions.
Maybe it was something else. We don’t know whether Carrie was unusually sensitive to a common medicine, or whether she took tablets from a contaminated batch. Chinese herbal medicine has quite a big market in the UK – there are stores in every high street – and generally it’s harmless, although you get reports of contaminated products every now and then. Maybe it wasn’t Chinese medicine at all – just because Carrie was Chinese doesn’t necessarily mean that she commonly took Chinese herbs.
What I hate about this case is that everything is so vague. Carrie did not die of natural causes, she was poisoned; someone killed her. What was the poison? Who gave it to her? Whoever it is, he or she has not been traced and no-one is looking for them – it’s the perfect murder.
I feel that Carrie has been let down by the system. Perhaps if she had family in the UK, they would have asked more questions; of the hospital, of the pathologist (is there really no test for this poison?), of the police (did they investigate?), of her friends (did she regularly take herbals? Had she visited a herbal shop recently?). Perhaps the system could have worked a bit harder, perhaps there would be one or two more answers, and less questions.
I really don’t think that English system has done its best for her.
Ling ‘Carrie’ Wang, RIP.