Toxicology: understanding the drug that killed Betty Bowman

Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 6:22 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The former Mayo doctor, Connor Bowman, accused of poisoning his wife, Betty Bowman, remains in jail, charged with second-degree murder.

According to the criminal complaint, the medical examiner ruled her cause of death to be toxic effects of colchicine, a drug commonly used to treat gout.

Toxicologist Lyle Burgoon, CEO and president of Raptor Pharm & Tox, said there is no specific cure to a lethal dose of colchicine. Medical experts try to treat the symptoms as they occur and possibly even try dialysis to get it out of the system, but that is not always effective.

Betty Bowman was experiencing severe diarrhea and nausea when she was admitted to the hospital according to the criminal complaint. She later developed fluid in her lungs, cardiac issues and kidney failure. The medical staff performed an emergency surgery to remove part of her colon, but the staff was unable to determine the cause of symptoms before her death.

“There’s no clinical test for it. We have to actually isolate the blood and use a special instrument,” Burgoon said. “We are looking specifically if colchicine is actually there. Does the machine actually pick up the chemical signature of colchicine?”

Burgoon said medical experts must know they are looking for colchicine to find it in a patient’s system.

According to the criminal complaint, the medical examiner’s office reached out to officials after suspicious circumstances.

Connor Bowman’s next court date is January 16.