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THE MULE FROM MIAMI
Air Canada Flight 919 left Miami at 8:10 p.m. (about an hour behind schedule). The pilot apologized for the delay and promised that he would try and make up time en route to Toronto.
The young woman who sat in the rear of the plane seemed tense and agitated. She repeatedly pulled out a magazine, turned the pages listlessly and dropped it on her lap. She had refused to eat anything, asking only for a Sprite.
At about 10 p.m., the pilot announced that a snow storm in the vicinity of Toronto was forcing him to divert the flight to Dorval. He droned on about alternative flights but the young woman, who had been sitting with her eyes closed, jumped out of her seat and ran to the restroom. When she returned to her seat, she was seen to be staring straight ahead with her eyes open and repeatedly moving her legs back and forth. Within 20 minutes, she was having generalized convulsions. The crew on board attempted CPR. But by the time the plane landed, the woman was dead.
Autopsy revealed that she was 3 months pregnant, the fetus being found dead as well. 147 complete condoms and 40 condom fragments were found in her gastrointestinal tract (23 ileum, 61 ascending colon, 21 transverse colon, 42 descending colon). The packets were wrapped upon themselves numerous times and each contained 2 grams of cocaine. The purity of the compound was not determined. Gastritis, duodenitis and mild cerebral edema were noted.
This was written in the form of a classic case, a narrative in which all the key components were embedded. The students explored both biological and sociological aspects of drug use. Much of the discussions each year have dealt with the mechanism of action of cocaine, the synthesis, storage and release of catecholamines, the receptors involved, the transit of materials through the gut and the reward systems in the brain. In addition, students have looked at the trafficking problem, the role of law enforcement etc. However, the course being an introductory one in pharmacology, much of the emphasis was on the biological issues. If the same problem had been used in the Arts and Sciences Inquiry course, there would have been a greater discussion on the behavioural and sociological aspects of the case.
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