Alcohol abuse is a widespread problem, especially in Western countries. Therefore, it is important to have markers of alcohol consumption with validated cut-off points. For many years research has focused on analysis of hair for alcohol markers, but data on the performance and reliability of cut-off values are still lacking. Evaluating 1,057 cases from 2005 to 2011, included a large sample group for the estimation of an applicable cut-off value when compared to earlier studies on fatty acid ethyl esters (FAEEs) in hair. The FAEEs concentrations in hair, police investigation reports, medical history, and the macroscopic and microscopic alcohol-typical results from autopsy, such as liver, pancreas, and cardiac findings, were taken into account in this study. In 80.2 % of all 1,057 cases pathologic findings that may be related to alcohol abuse were reported. The cases were divided into social drinkers (n = 168), alcohol abusers (n = 502), and cases without information on alcohol use. The median FAEEs concentration in the group of social drinkers was 0.302 ng/mg (range 0.008-14.3 ng/mg). In the group of alcohol abusers a median of 1.346 ng/mg (range 0.010-83.7 ng/mg) was found. Before June 2009 the hair FAEEs test was routinely applied to a proximal hair segment of 0-6 cm, changing to a routinely investigated hair length of 3 cm after 2009, as proposed by the Society of Hair Testing (SoHT). The method showed significant differences between the groups of social drinkers and alcoholics, leading to an improvement in the postmortem detection of alcohol abuse. Nevertheless, the performance of the method was rather poor, with an area under the curve calculated from receiver operating characteristic (ROC curve AUC) of 0.745. The optimum cut-off value for differentiation between social and chronic excessive drinking calculated for hair FAEEs was 1.08 ng/mg, with a sensitivity of 56 % and a specificity of 80 %. In relation to the "Consensus on Alcohol Markers 2012" by the SoHT, an increase in the cut-off value for FAEEs in the proximal hair segment 0-3 cm from 0.5 to 1 ng/mg may be advisable to avoid excessive numbers of false positive results.
A 14-year-old African-American female with a long-standing medically and ablation-treated history of tachycardia with associated seizures died suddenly. Upon autopsy, evidence of gross non-compaction involving the left ventricle, as well as possible subtle non-compaction of the right ventricle was discovered. Microscopically, there was focal myocyte hypertrophy as well as myxoid connective tissue and subendocardial fibroelastosis in the areas affected by the non-compaction. Arrhythmia, precipitated by the underlying cardiomyopathy, led to this young girl's death. Non-compaction cardiomyopathy is a rare cardiac disorder which commonly goes undiagnosed until post-mortem, although diagnosis through echocardiogram, CT, or MRI is possible and there is criterion for diagnosis with each of these.
In forensic casework, Y-chromosome short tandem repeat (STR) haplotyping is used in human identification, paternity testing and sexual assault cases where Y-STRs provide a male-specific DNA profile. The aim of this study was to describe the genetic structure of Y chromosome in a central Croatian population. We carried out a statistical analysis of the data from previously performed genetic analyses collected during routine forensic work by the Forensic Science Centre "Ivan Vučetić". A total of 220 unrelated healthy men from central Croatia were selected for the purpose of this study. Genomic DNA was extracted using a Chelex procedure from FTA(®) cards. Y-chromosomal STRs were determined using the AmpFISTR Yfiler PCR amplification kit. The haplotype frequencies were determined by direct counting and analyzed using Arlequin 3.1 and analysis of molecular variance calculated with the Y chromosome haplotype reference database online analysis tool. A total of 212 haplotypes were identified, 204 of which were unique. Total haplotype diversity was 0.993. Locus diversity varied from 0.325 for DYS392 to 0.786 for DYS385. Discrimination capacity was 92.7%. Allele frequencies diversity was 0.615. Intermediate alleles 17.2, 18.2 and 19.2 were found at DYS458 locus. A comparison with published data for the European minimal haplotype set showed the closest relationship to the Croatian capital of Zagreb and Bosnia and Herzegovina with significant genetic distance from Slovenia and Austria. The central Croatian population is now well characterized in terms of Y-chromosome STRs, thus providing a solid basis for further forensic and genetic epidemiology studies.
The University Institute of Legal Medicine of the University Hospital Charité in Berlin is the oldest faculty in Germany. On February 11, 1833 it was founded as a "Praktische Unterrichtsanstalt für Staatsarzneikunde (Practice-oriented School of Public Health and Medicine)" at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (founded in 1810) and in 1886 it received its own building in Berlin-Mitte. Starting with Wilhelm Wagner, Johann Ludwig Casper, Fritz Strassmann, and their successors established the Berlin School of Legal Medicine, which has been playing an important role for the subject's progress in the German-speaking area until today. Regardless of the accepted scientific achievements, the institute fell victim to the Berlin policy of austerity after 2003 leading to staff reduction and the closure of the historical location. Since the new appointment to the chair in 2007 and the junction of the subject in Berlin-Moabit there is now the chance for a new impetus of forensic medicine in the German capital.
Suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of wealthy socialite Mary Lily "Lil'" Kenan Flagler Bingham in 1917 prompted a secret autopsy conducted by renowned physicians at the request of her relatives. Mrs Bingham, who was formerly married to railroad magnate, Henry Flagler, was among America's richest people at the time of her death. Mary Lil's untimely death occurred approximately six months after her marriage to Judge Robert "Bob" Worth Bingham, a college boyfriend whom she married three years after Flagler's death. In order to establish Mary Lil's medical condition prior to her death, a book about Mary Lil's life written by Pulitzer Prize author, David Chandler and articles from the New York Times; The Louisville Courier Journal, a Kentucky newspaper; and Mary Lil's hometown newspaper, The Morning Star, in Wilmington, North Carolina were examined. Although a team of medical experts performed a secret autopsy following her death and released their findings to her family, the examination and tests results remain undisclosed to the public.
Analysis was undertaken of trends in sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in Australia from 1980 to 2002 using Australian Bureau of Statistics data. The results showed a decline in the SIDS mortality rate from an average of 195.6 deaths per 100,000 live births in the period 1980-1990 to an average of 96.5 deaths per 100,000 live births in the period 1991-1996 and 51.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in the period 1997-2002. The Poisson regression coefficients for SIDS fitted to the rates at the Australia level indicated that the Reduce the Risks (RTR) campaign led to a significant decline of almost 40% when contrasting the pre- and post-campaign periods. Despite recent suggestions that the fall in SIDS rate has been due to natural variations in incidence, the data clearly show that the decline in SIDS rates coincided almost immediately with the introduction of the RTR campaign and has been sustained over time. There was no evidence of diagnostic transfer or of a postponement of death from infancy to early childhood years. Unless this dramatic fall was caused by as yet undetected factors, the campaign is the only plausible explanation for the markedly reduced SIDS rate in Australia.
We surveyed our data over a 15-year period to determine the prevalence of cardiomyopathy diagnoses in our database and characterized the cases in regards to demographic and clinicopathological data. Furthermore we evaluated implications for screening. The data were acquired through our computerized database containing autopsy reports. Only cases with typical anatomical and histological features were included. The total number of autopsies in the studied period was 7,185 of which 32 suited the following criteria: 14 arrythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathies (ARVC), 8 hypertrophic cardiomyopathies (HCM), 8 dilated cardiomyopathies (DCM) and 2 other cardiomyopathies. Symptoms of cardiac disease were present in 8 ARVC, 3 HCM and 7 DCM cases. Symptoms of cardiac disease, including suspected sudden cardiac deaths, were present in the families of 5 cases. In two of these families the illnesses were discovered as a result of testing after autopsy. We underscore that these diseases are difficult to diagnose as the presenting symptoms are elusive. We found the circumstances around death to be extremely varied, and found that new hereditary cases could be discovered after autopsy. This places an intriguing perspective on the integration of standardized screening protocols with participation from forensic institutes.
Concealment of pregnancy and newborn infant abandonment are closely associated with neonaticide, the killing of an infant within the first 24 h of life or less than 28-30 days depending on the jurisdiction. Abandonment of newborn infants occurs throughout the world and often the outcome for the infant is death. Together with neonaticide it is felt to be one of the least preventable crimes. In this retrospective study we present all forensically known Danish cases of abandoned newborn infant corpses, covering the period from 1997 to 2008. Eleven newborn infant corpses were found; we registered characteristics of the newborn infants and the circumstances of the cases based on autopsy reports. One further newborn infant was included, dating back to 1992, as it was found to be connected with one of the later cases. The mean age of the women who abandoned their newborn infants was 22 years, and five of the autopsied newborn infants were probably alive when abandoned. In two cases the newborn infants were half siblings and abandoned by the same mother. The time span from abandonment to when the newborn infant was found ranged from hours to 7 years. Two-thirds of the newborn infants were girls (66.6%). The most common means of disposal was in a plastic bag (~60%); only one newborn infant was wearing clothes when found. Causes of death were usually given as asphyxia, brain injury or simply undetermined. Two-thirds of the newborn infants showed signs of violence. None of the newborn infants had congenital malformations.
Motor vehicle-related child hyperthermia fatalities (MVRCHF) have risen slightly in the past decade, but little research has been done investigating the circumstances surrounding MVRCHF. In order to address gaps in our understanding, the current study describes MVRCHF circumstances among children <1-14 years of age in the United States from 1999 to 2007. Three sources were used to identify child hyperthermia death cases in the United States from 1999 to 2007: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Compressed Mortality File (1999-2004), the Golden Gate Weather Service's public MVRCHF database (2003-Present), and an independent internet search. Data about the victim's characteristics and the circumstances surrounding the death were extracted. From 1999 to 2007, 231 MVRCHF were identified. Children were left unattended in >80% of cases, 25% of victims were playing at the time of death, and 60% were male. On average, the core body temperature was 107.2 degrees F after being left inside the vehicle for an average of 4.6 h. The largest number of deaths occurred in the South, followed by the West, Midwest, and Northeast. Parents were found to be accountable for 2/3 of the hyperthermia deaths. The geographic distribution of incidence may be attributable to two major influences: (1) regional climate differences; and (2) population characteristics. The accountability of parents for MVRCHF is likely due to the exposure-risk concept, in which the situation/circumstances increase the injury probability.
In this paper we present the second prototype of a robotic system to be used in forensic medicine. The system is capable of performing automated surface documentation using photogrammetry, optical surface scanning and image-guided, post-mortem needle placement for tissue sampling, liquid sampling, or the placement of guide wires. The upgraded system includes workflow optimizations, an automatic tool-change mechanism, a new software module for trajectory planning and a fully automatic computed tomography-data-set registration algorithm. We tested the placement accuracy of the system by using a needle phantom with radiopaque markers as targets. The system is routinely used for surface documentation and resulted in 24 surface documentations over the course of 11 months. We performed accuracy tests for needle placement using a biopsy phantom, and the Virtobot placed introducer needles with an accuracy of 1.4 mm (±0.9 mm). The second prototype of the Virtobot system is an upgrade of the first prototype but mainly focuses on streamlining the workflow and increasing the level of automation and also has an easier user interface. These upgrades make the Virtobot a potentially valuable tool for case documentation in a scalpel-free setting that uses purely imaging techniques and minimally invasive procedures and is the next step toward the future of virtual autopsy.
This paper examines toxicology results from homicide victims in Trinidad and Tobago to explore patterns in pre-mortem drug and alcohol use. Toxicology test results were obtained for 1,780 homicide victims. Toxicology data from the coroner's office were linked with police data on homicide incidents to examine patterns in drug use and homicide. Trinidad and Tobago homicide victims tested positive for cannabis at a significantly higher rate (32%) than the average rate among other drug toxicology studies. Victims tested positive for alcohol (29%), cocaine (7%), and opioids (1.5%) at rates that were either comparable with or lower than those of homicide victims examined in other studies. The proportion of victims testing positive for cannabis grew significantly from 2001 to 2007; the proportions for alcohol and other drugs were fairly stable over time. Toxicology results also varied by homicide motive, weapon type, and the demographic characteristics of the victim. Toxicology data are a useful source for understanding patterns in drug use and homicide. Though such data have limitations, when combined with other types of data, they can often provide unique insights about a community's drug and violence problems.
The aim of this study was to determine the incidence of, and any changes in, usage patterns of the less-lethal forms of Use of Force (UoF) modalities-incapacitant spray, impact rounds, and Taser(R)-between 2007 and 2011 by English and Welsh police services. Additional information regarding the deployment and discharge of firearms was also sought. Two thousand Freedom of Information Act applications were made to 50 police services in England and Wales and related jurisdictions requesting the provision of: (a) the total number of deployments of incapacitant sprays, Taser(R), impact (baton) rounds, and armed response units (ARU); (b) the numbers and types of any resulting medical complications; and (c) the details of any local policies requiring assessment by a healthcare professional following a deployment. Responses were received from 47 police services, with only 10 of these supplying complete data. The remainder supplied incomplete data or refused to supply any data under s12 of the Freedom of Information Act (time and cost restrictions). From 2007 to 2011, the use of incapacitant sprays, Taser, and firearms have increased (incapacitant sprays deployed: 3496, 3976, 6911, 6679, 6853; Taser deployed: 499, 2659, 4560, 6943, 7203; Taser discharged: 15, 85, 161, 338, 461; firearms: 0, 7, 4, 19, 32). Baton rounds and ARU use showed greater variability over the same time period (baton rounds: 1007, 1327, 1123, 1382, 1278; ARUs: 11688, 13652, 13166, 13959, 12090). Only two services could provide details of medical consequences from use of incapacitant sprays, Taser, and baton rounds. No service could provide details of any related medical complications following use of firearms. Data collection and release are variable and inconsistent throughout English and Welsh police services and thus caution is needed in determining trends of UoF techniques. Deaths or injuries inflicted using UoF techniques result in much public scrutiny and the low level of data recorded in these cases is of concern. Common systems for recording use and adverse outcomes of UoF techniques are needed to inform the public and others who have concerns about such techniques.
The 20th International Symposium on the Forensic Sciences (ANZFSS) was held in Sydney, Australia, between September 5 and 9, 2010. The theme was 'forensic science on trial'. Abstracts are provided here for all oral presentations given at the conference.
The authors report a case of fatal peritonitis due to small bowel perforation in a 21-month-old female child. Necropsy excluded natural disease and a thorough Coronial investigation concluded that an accidental fall onto a "doorstop" caused the bowel injury. The investigative findings are presented; the discussion address issues of diagnosis and causation/mechanism of injury.
The antiepileptic, carbamazepine, is extensively metabolized via hepatic enzymes in the cytochrome P450 family and is therefore subject to a myriad of drug interactions. Concomitant administration with phenytoin enhances carbamazepine metabolism thus reducing serum concentrations and necessitating the use of a higher maintenance dose. Removal of phenytoin therapy in the absence of anticipatory dose adjustments and careful monitoring of serum concentrations may result in catastrophic outcomes. Reported herein are the events leading to the death of a 23-month old child who suffered a fatal carbamazepine overdose following withdrawal of phenytoin therapy.
Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy is a common form of seizure-related death but is poorly appreciated by the medical profession. A number of risk factors have been identified in this context including male gender, young adult age group (20-40 years), poor compliance with antiepileptic drugs, polytherapy, and presence of neuropathological lesions. In addition it has been noted that most of the victims sustained an unwitnessed collapse at home. In this paper, we describe a retrospective review of 24 adult cases of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. The study recognizes two risk factors; poor compliance with anti-epileptic monotherapy and an age between 20 and 29 years. All the victims were found dead at home and only one had a witnessed collapse. Our study shows a variety of neuropathological findings as the etiology. The completeness of the autopsy findings for all the cases is a strength compared to some of the other studies.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly used as analgesics and antipyretics in Western countries. Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are common side effects of NSAIDs and other drugs. This study investigated the correlation between chronic use of these substances and GI lesions by analyzing postmortem blood and hair samples from autopsy cases. This study included 268 hair and blood samples from autopsy cases. Deceased individuals with GI lesions were selected for the case group (n = 132) and those without any GI lesions were placed in the control group (n = 136). Collection of the samples took place from 2008 until 2010 at the Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. HPLC-DAD was used to analyze the blood samples while hair samples were analyzed using LC-quadrupole-time-of-flight-MS. The proximal 0-6 cm hair segment was analyzed. The full length of shorter hair samples was analyzed when longer segments were unavailable. Method validation was performed according to the guidelines of the German Society of Toxicological and Forensic Chemistry (GTFCh). Twenty-three per cent of the case group blood samples included one or more NSAIDs while 19 % of the control group blood samples included one or more NSAIDs. In contrast, the hair analysis results demonstrated that samples from the control and case group differed significantly; 67 % of the case group tested positive for one or more NSAIDs while 38 % of the control group tested positive for one or more NSAIDs. Hair analysis results provided a strong indication of a relationship between frequent NSAID consumption and GI lesions.
Deaths after ingestion of hydrogen peroxide (HP) are very rare, but poisoning due to consumption of HP is not uncommon. Most HP exposure involves common household-strength (3 %) HP and is usually benign. Even if it is not generally considered to be a poison, it can cause accidental death. HP results in morbidity through two main mechanisms: direct cytotoxic injury to tissues and formation of oxygen gas. We describe a rare case of a 2-year-old female who died after accidentally ingesting two sips of 35 % HP. For the first time, we provide histopathological images of the damage caused by HP in organic tissues.
Objective3D surface scanning has been successfully used in forensic medicine and pathology for over a decade. We report a new application area: a technique of skull-face superimposition as a 3D-surface-scan based identification method. Our aim was to test this technology—previously used in industrial and anthropological areas—for facial proportionality evaluation and comparing a number of morphological features of the face and skull.Materials and methodsThis study is based on a 3D correlation of skull/face of two named individuals: Henri IV and Marie-Antoine Carême.The head of the French King Henri IV (1553–1610) has been identified according to 22 forensic and historical arguments [1, 2] (Fig. 1a), and is waiting to be buried for the last time in the Saint-Denis Cathedral (France). A mortuary mask was made at the time of his death in 1610, and copies were displayed in anthropological and scientific institutions after the spread of phrenology ; the studied cast (Fig. 1b) is held in ...
Reconstructions based directly upon forensic evidence alone are called primary information. Historically this consists of documentation of findings by verbal protocols, photographs and other visual means. Currently modern imaging techniques such as 3D surface scanning and radiological methods (Computer Tomography, Magnetic Resonance Imaging) are also applied. Secondary interpretation is based on facts and the examiner's experience. Usually such reconstructive expertises are given in written form, and are often enhanced by sketches. However, narrative interpretations can, especially in complex courses of action, be difficult to present and can be misunderstood. In this report we demonstrate the use of graphic reconstruction of secondary interpretation with supporting pictorial evidence, applying digital visualisation (using 'Poser') or scientific animation (using '3D Studio Max', 'Maya') and present methods of clearly distinguishing between factual documentation and examiners' interpretation based on three cases. The first case involved a pedestrian who was initially struck by a car on a motorway and was then run over by a second car. The second case involved a suicidal gunshot to the head with a rifle, in which the trigger was pushed with a rod. The third case dealt with a collision between two motorcycles. Pictorial reconstruction of the secondary interpretation of these cases has several advantages. The images enable an immediate overview, give rise to enhanced clarity, and compel the examiner to look at all details if he or she is to create a complete image.
Anthropological examination of defleshed bones is routinely used in medico-legal investigations to establish an individual's biological profile. However, when dealing with the recently deceased, the removal of soft tissue from bone can be an extremely time consuming procedure that requires the presence of a trained anthropologist. In addition, due to its invasive nature, in some disaster victim identification scenarios the maceration of bones is discouraged by religious practices and beliefs, or even prohibited by national laws and regulations. Currently, three different radiological techniques may be used in the investigative process; plain X-ray, dental X-ray and fluoroscopy. However, recent advances in multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) mean that it is now possible to acquire morphological skeletal information from high resolution images, reducing the necessity for invasive procedures. This review paper considers the possible applications of a virtual anthropological examination by reviewing the main juvenile age determination methods used by anthropologists at present and their possible adaption to MDCT.