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Essam Atta – swallowing detergent is standard prison procedure in Egypt

Since the publication of my article “Essam Atta alleged torture method known as water cure“, another theory has emerged that suggests that the victim was forced to swallow large quantities of water mixed with a laundry detergent. This account was conveyed by Ineam Atta, the subject’s mother. Ineam recounted how another prisoner told her that her son had a hose inserted into his anus and was forced to drink two liters of detergent.

According to a comment posted by a visitor on this blog, swallowing detergent is standard prison practice in Egypt when dealing with suspected “body stuffers”. Body stuffing occurs when people about to be apprehended by law enforcement swallow drug packets to avoid detection. Sometimes packets are placed in the rectum or vagina. Swallowing detergent is done to induce vomiting and is accompanied by inspection of the stools to determine the presence of drug packets. With the availability of much safer emetogenics and purgatives, using laundry detergent as an alternative is entirely unacceptable.

This theory would certainly account for the formation of a large stomach ulcer described in the postmortem exam and the vomiting of blood (hematemesis) in the university hospital report. The type, concentration and amount of detergent swallowed would determine the extent of the chemical injury which can lead to hematemesis and death. The pH of the detergent is very important here. Unlike alkali ingestions, which commonly result in esophageal injury, the stomach is the most commonly involved organ following an acid ingestion. Moreover, acid ingestion causes the denaturation of tissue proteins that often results in the formation of a dark slough (eschar). This may have been suggested in the eyewitness report.

 بعد فحص جدار المعدة الداخلي تبين وجود منطقة متلونة بلون أغمق مما حولها بشكل دائري بقطر حوالي عشرة سنتيمترات و هو ما يعنى وجود تقرح بالمعدة قبل الوفاة ، و هذه المنطقة المتقرحة لم تكن مثقوبة الى السطح الخارجى لجدار المعدة  

As mentioned in another article (Essam Atta autopsy – Conflicts in the eyewitness doctor report), the absence of blood in the eyewitness description of the stomach contents seems to contradict that any form of ulcer bleeding had ever taken place.

It’s also important to note that whether a corrosive detergent was swallowed or not, the amount and duration of forced water ingestion can still lead to water intoxication and death.

Related articles


  1. Caustic Ingestions. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/813772-overview#a0104
  2. http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=185904061490838

About T. Fouad, MD

Blogging on Egypt, Middle East Politics. Economics. Oncology. Egyptian Liberal, Doctor. كتابة عن مصر والشرق الأوسط, سياسة واقتصاد, طبيب مصري ليبرالي. تابعوني على تويتر @FouadMD



  1. Pingback: Essam Atta alleged torture method known as water cure « Democrati.net - November 3, 2011

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