Diagnostic yield and characteristic features in a series of decomposed bodies subject to coronial autopsy
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
A study was undertaken of 629 cases autopsied at Forensic Science SA, Adelaide, Australia over a 10-year period from 1994 to 2004 where significant decomposition had been documented. The age range of victims was 10 months to 92 years (mean 51.5 ± 18.1 years). There were 498 males (79%) and 131 females (21%) (M:F = 3.8:1). Deaths in 289 of the 629 cases (46%) were due to natural causes, with 179 suicides (28%), 83 accidents (13%), and 36 homicides (6%). The cause of death was ascertained in 89% of cases and the manner of death in 93% of cases. In 35 cases (6%) both the cause and manner could not be determined. Numbers of suicides were higher in younger age groups while deaths from organic illnesses predominated in later life. The number of cases in summer was significantly greater than in winter. Despite technical difficulties in handling decomposed bodies, and artifactual alteration of tissue structure and microscopic features, the autopsy was still a useful diagnostic exercise. While it is likely that more information may be gleaned from fresh bodies in perfectly preserved states, decomposed bodies may reveal significant anatomical and pathological features that enable both the cause and manner of death to be established.
- Tsokos M. Postmortem changes. Overview. In: Payne-James J, Byard RW, Corey T, Henderson C, editors. Encyclopedia of forensic and legal medicine, vol. 3. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Academic Press; 2005. p. 456–76.
- Byard RW, James RA, Gilbert JD. Diagnostic problems associated with cadaveric trauma from animal activity. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2002;23:238–44. CrossRef
- Prieto JL, Magana C, Ubelaker DH. Interpretation of postmortem change in cadavers in Spain. J Forensic Sci 2004;49:918–23. CrossRef
- Honigschnabl S, Schaden E, Stichenwirth M, Schneider B, Klupp N, Kremeier E, et al. Discovery of decomposed and mummified corpses in the domestic setting—a marker of social isolation? J Forensic Sci 2002;47:837–42.
- Archer MS. Rainfall and temperature effects on the decomposition rate of exposed neonatal remains. Sci Justice 2004;44:35–41. CrossRef
- Byard RW, Gilbert J, James R, Lokan RJ. Amphetamine derivative fatalities in South Australia—is “Ecstacy” the culprit? Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1998;19:261–5. CrossRef
- Dressler J, Madea B. Dumping of victims in walls. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2005;26:250–3. CrossRef
- Fiedler S, Graw M. Decomposition of buried corpses, with special reference to the formation of adipocere. Naturwissenschaft 2003;90:291–300. CrossRef
- Rodriguez WC, Bass WM. Decomposition of buried bodies and methods that may aid their location. J Forensic Sci 1985;30:836–52.
- Stodkilde-Jorgensen H, Jurik AG, Dalstra M, Lynnerup N, Gregersen M, Boel LW, Bindslev DA, Pedersen CB, Kruse A, Hansen ES, Jorgensen CS, Jacobsen NO, Asingh P. The Graubelle man. Medical examination of a conserved moss man’s corpse. Ugeskr Laeger 2001;163:7226–9.
- Casper JL. A handbook of the practice of forensic medicine based upon personal experience. London: The New Sydenham Society; 1861. Ch. 2, p. 14–55.
- Ortmann C, Pfeiffer H, Brinkmann B. Demonstration of myocardial necrosis in the presence of advanced putrefaction. Int J Legal Med 2000;114:50–5. CrossRef
- Madden R. Suicides, Australia 1982–1992. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Catalogue No. 3309.0. Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service; 1994.
- Byard RW, Gilbert JD, Tsokos M. Forensic issues in cases of Diogenes syndrome. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2007;28:177–81. CrossRef
- Byard RW. Incapacitation or death of a socially isolated parent or carer may result in the death of dependent children. J Paediatr Child Health 2002;23:417–8. CrossRef
- Byard RW, Gehl A, Andeers S, Tsokos M. Putrefaction and wound dehiscence—a potentially confusing post mortem phenomenon. Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2006;27:61–3. CrossRef
- James R, Gilbert J, Byard RW. Post-traumatic diaphragmatic hernia and death—etiological factor or putrefactive artefact? Am J Forensic Med Pathol 1999;20:66–9. CrossRef
- Cains G, Byard RW. Tattoos—historical, social and pathologic significance. In: Tsokos M, editor. Forensic pathology reviews, vol. 5. Humana Press (in press).
- Diagnostic yield and characteristic features in a series of decomposed bodies subject to coronial autopsy
Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Volume 4, Issue 1 , pp 9-14
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Humana Press Inc
- Additional Links
- Forensic pathology
- Cause of death
- Manner of death