Accidental death from acute selenium poisoning

Katharine A See, Peter S Lavercombe, Jasmine Dillon and Riesa Ginsberg
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (7): 388-389.

We report a fatal case of acute selenium poisoning in a 75-year-old man. After reading on the Internet about a possible role of selenium in prostate cancer, the patient ingested 10 g of sodium selenite. Despite intensive care treatment, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died 6 hours after ingestion. This case illustrates the risks of failing to critically evaluate Internet information and exposes the myth that natural therapies are inherently safe.

After a single test showing a raised level of prostate-specific antigen, a 75-year-old man became concerned about prostate cancer. Without confirmation of the diagnosis, he researched prostate cancer on the Internet and discovered that selenium may have a role in its prevention and treatment. He purchased sodium selenite powder and tablets from two separate pharmacies for supplementation.

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  • Katharine A See1
  • Peter S Lavercombe2
  • Jasmine Dillon3
  • Riesa Ginsberg4

  • St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, Brisbane, QLD.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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