A case of suicide by ingestion of caffeine
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Intentional or unintentional caffeine abuse due to excessive intake of beverages or energy drinks containing caffeine is relatively frequent. However, death due to caffeine intoxication is rare and case reports of fatalities from caffeine toxicity are relatively infrequent. In this report, we describe an autopsy case involving a 31 year-old man who intentionally took a large amount of caffeine tablets in the form of a weight loss supplement as part of a suicide plan. Caffeine femoral blood concentration (170 mg/l) was within the toxic and potentially lethal ranges reported in the literature in similar cases. Postmortem biochemistry results suggested depressed glomerular filtration rate and pre-renal failure at the time of death but failed to reveal myoglobinuria, glycosuria, ketonuria or ketonemia. Based on the absence of pathological findings at autopsy and the high blood caffeine level, death was attributed to acute caffeine toxicity. The case emphasizes the usefulness of performing exhaustive toxicology and searching for all potentially relevant information in order to formulate appropriate hypotheses concerning the cause and manner of death.
KeywordsCaffeine Fatal intoxication Toxicology GC–MS Postmortem biochemistry