Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 580–590 | Cite as

Skin lesions and traditional folk practices: a medico-legal perspective

  • Alessia Viero
  • Alberto AmadasiEmail author
  • Alberto Blandino
  • Alessandra Kustermann
  • Massimo Montisci
  • Cristina Cattaneo


The correct assessment of signs of abuse on the skin is a challenge of utmost importance for both clinical and forensic applications. This review aims to investigate how differing cultural behaviors influence the perception of abuse, focusing on the need for a multidisciplinary approach and investigation. A literature search for articles that discussed folk practices from a forensic perspective was performed; articles with reference to abuse in the description of the main folk healing techniques and with reference to the differential diagnosis between physical abuse and skin injuries due to folk healing techniques were selected. A synoptic table of all skin injuries produced by folk healing techniques, divided by geographical area, was created. This table can be used as a tool for the thorough assessment of typical signs detectable on the skin, thus aiding in a differential diagnosis. The first approach to the patient represents a crucial step toward the identification of abuse; forensic practitioners ought to be aware of the existence of folk healing techniques which may mimic signs that can be interpreted as physical abuse in children and adults.


Clinical forensic medicine Physical abuse Bruising Folk healing techniques Differential diagnosis 


Compliance with ethical standard

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent the article does not contain any studies with human participants requesting their informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessia Viero
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alberto Amadasi
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Alberto Blandino
    • 1
    • 4
  • Alessandra Kustermann
    • 1
  • Massimo Montisci
    • 2
  • Cristina Cattaneo
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.SVSeD service - IRCCS Cà Granda Policlinico di Milano – Clinica MangiagalliMilanItaly
  2. 2.Department of Legal and Occupational Medicine, Toxicology and Public HealthUniversity-Hospital of PadovaPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Sede di Medicina Legale, Dipartimento di Scienze Mediche e ChirurgicheUniversità di BolognaBolognaItaly
  4. 4.Sezione di Medicina Legale e delle Assicurazioni, Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche per la SaluteMilanItaly

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