Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 448–451 | Cite as

A case of suicide by ingestion of caffeine

  • Alessandro Bonsignore
  • Sara Sblano
  • Fulvia Pozzi
  • Francesco Ventura
  • Alessandro Dell’Erba
  • Cristian Palmiere
Case Report


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.


Caffeine Fatal intoxication Toxicology GC–MS Postmortem biochemistry 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandro Bonsignore
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sara Sblano
    • 1
  • Fulvia Pozzi
    • 3
  • Francesco Ventura
    • 2
  • Alessandro Dell’Erba
    • 1
  • Cristian Palmiere
    • 4
  1. 1.DIM – Section of Legal MedicineUniversity of BariBariItaly
  2. 2.Department of Legal MedicineUniversity of GenovaGenoaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Public Health, Neurosciences, Experimental and Forensic MedicineUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  4. 4.Centre Universitaire Romand de Médecine LégaleUniversity Center of Legal MedicineLausanneSwitzerland

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