Industry News: New Fingerprint Drug Test Used by Coroner Service to Assist Investigations Into Cause of Death

Non-invasive test offers early insight into whether or not drug use may have contributed towards death

10 Oct 2017

Following a successful trial, HM Senior Coroner for Staffordshire (South) has placed an order for a revolutionary new fingerprint-based drug screening system from Intelligent Fingerprinting. The new technology will be used by the Coroner’s team to carry out a simple, non-invasive drug test on the deceased immediately upon arrival at the mortuary. The test results will help to prioritize costly and time-consuming post-mortem investigations.

Launched just last month, Intelligent Fingerprinting’s new Drug Screening System is the world’s first portable fingerprint drug test. It detects recent drug use by analyzing the sweat collected from the tip of a finger. Remarkably, sweat deposits are still present even after death. Sample collection takes five seconds, and the system delivers simultaneous screening results for the four main drugs of abuse – cocaine, opiates, cannabis and amphetamines – in under ten minutes.

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This rapid and non-invasive approach provides Coroner services such as Staffordshire (South) with a convenient means of gathering critical early intelligence on possible drug use by the deceased – particularly in comparison with conventional toxicology tests that are usually conducted as part of the post-mortem examination. These typically require the collection of invasive body fluid samples – blood, saliva or urine - that then have to be sent away for analysis by external testing laboratories.

“Fingertip drug screening may prove to be a valuable addition to the range of tests we use for investigating deaths, particularly as we can now carry out the initial drug test within the mortuary,” commented Mr. Andrew A Haigh, HM Senior Coroner for Staffordshire (South). “Now that the test is commercially available, we were keen to place an order. Importantly, the Intelligent Fingerprinting system may well help us to prioritize when a full post mortem is needed.”

The Staffordshire (South) Coroner’s Office has been an active participant in trials of Intelligent Fingerprinting’s drug screening system over the last 18 months, with trial results showing that fingertip-based testing can deliver effective screening, prioritizing the requirement for further post mortem enquiries and full toxicology analyses.

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“Testing clearly showed that fingertip-based screening provides useful and reliable intelligence on drug use prior to death, with the results being highly consistent with existing techniques - body-fluid based tests and laboratory toxicology analyses,” continued Mr. Haigh. “Now that the system has been fully validated and tested for commercial use, we are delighted to add Intelligent Fingerprinting to our portfolio of tests.”

“Tests have proven that the Intelligent Fingerprinting drug screening system can not only detect recent use of drugs prior to death, but also does it conveniently, quickly and in a non-invasive manner,” added Intelligent Fingerprinting’s Business Development Director, Dr. Paul Yates. “This ability to gain very early drug use intelligence outside the post-mortem examination provides an opportunity for Coroners and their staff to expedite and direct further investigations and toxicology tests – helping them to target valuable resources where they are most needed.”


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