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Monday, 4 July 2011

Asphyxial deaths


The word " asphyxia" means abscence of pulsation. But in forensic medicine , it means lack of oxygen. It may be described as interference with respiration due to any cause like mechanical, environmental, or toxic. Anoxia refers to complete absence of oxygen.

Causes of asphyxial deaths:

Death caused by asphyxia are broadly classified as:

1) Hanging
2) Strangulation
3) Suffocation
4) Drowning


Hanging is defined as death produced by suspending the body by the ligature tied around the neck. The constricting force producing asphyxia in this is the weight of the body, or sometimes only a part of the body like head.

Hanging is of two types:

1) Typical hanging :  When the body is suspended from high point of suspension and feet are not touching the    ground it is called " typical hanging" . In this constricting force is the full weight of the body.

2) Atypical hanging or partial hanging : When some part of the body touches the ground like knees,feet,etc, it is called " atypical" or " partial hanging".


Any type of ligature can be used for hanging , common being rope, dupatta, saree, dhoti, bed sheet, handkerchief , wires, etc. The ligature should be inspected for strength whether it can sustain the weight of the body or not. The ligature should be inspected microscopically for tissues present on it from the neck of the person who has hanged himself.

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)

Signs of death

They may be classified as follows:

A. Immediate changes

Permanent cessation of circulation and respiration

B. Early changes

1) Changes in eye
2) Changes in skin
3) Cooling of body
4) Post mortem staining

C. Late changes

1) Rigor mortis
2) Putrefaction
3) Adipocere
4) Mummification

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)

Friday, 10 June 2011

Basic post mortem examination

Modern autopsy techniques include modifications of the Virchow, Ghon or Lettule methods. The method attributed to Rokitansky, characterized by in situ dissection has not stood the test of time, although many erroneously apply his name to the method of Lettule. Using the Virchow's method , the prosecutor removes organs one by one. In contrast the pathologist using the Ghon or Letulle method removes the cervical , thoracic and abdominal and genitourinary organs as separate organ blocks ("en bloc" ) or as a single gropup ("en masse"), respectively.

The virchow's method ,removing organs one by one , is excellent for demontrating pathologic changes in organs but sacrifices interorgan relationships and makes interpretation of regional disease more difficult. The advantages of the Ghon and Letulle techniques include excellent preservation of the interrelationships of the various organs, their regional lymphatic drainage, and their vasculature.

(Finkbeiner,ursell, Autopsy Pathology a manual and atlas)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The corpus delicti

The corpus delicti means body of offence or essence of crime. In case of a murder, it is the fact that a person has died from the unlawful violence and includes the body of the victim and other facts like bullet, knife or clothing. The following points are usually seen for purpose of identification:

1) race
2) sex
3) age
4) complexion and features
5) hair
6) anthropometry
7) footprints
8) deformities
9) scars
10) tattoo
11) occupation marks
12) handwriting
13) Miscellaneous methods of identification such as

  -clothes and personal articles
 - speech and voice
 - gait
 -ticks, manners and habit
- mental power, memory and education

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)


Identification is recognition of a person based on certain characteristics which may be (a) complete, i.e exact fixation of personality and (b) incomplete like determination of age, sex, race,suture, etc. The doctor is called upon to establish the identity of the dead body or a person  brought to him. Identification of a living person is required in criminal cases, like absconding soldiers, person accused of assault,murder, rape,interchange of newborn babies,disputed paternity,etc. The identification of dead bodies is required in cases of sudden and unexpected death, fire explosions, railway or aircraft accidents

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)

Legal procedures


inquest means " to seek". It is an enquiry into the cause of death. It is conducted where there is suspicion regarding cause of death or cause of death is to be ascertained. There are 4 types of inquest :

1) Police inquest
2)coroner inquest
3)magistrate inquest
4)medical examiner system

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)

introduction to forensic medicine

Definition :

The specialty of forensic medicine is known by various names like, 1) forensic medicine
                                                                                                    2)legal medicine
                                                                                                    3)medical jurisprudence
                                                                                                    4)state medicine

The word forensic means " of court of law". Forensic medicine is defined as application of medical knowledge in the administration of justice.Medical jurisprudence deals with the legal aspects of medical practice and knowledge. It brings doctors in contact with laws. State medicine is application of medical knowledge in prevention of diseases. It defines the duty of a doctor in relation to notification of all births,deaths,notifiable diseases, and food poisoning. It deals with legal mandatory duties of medical practitioners and personnels.

(from: R.K sharma concise textbook of forensic medicine and toxicology)