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Atypical longitudinal self-inflicted incised wounds as a cause of death in an ecstasy user


A 32-year-old chronic drug abuser was found dead at the entrance to his home, covered in blood. Pools of blood, bloody footprints and bloodstains were found across the apartment. A double-edged razor was recovered from the scene. Autopsy revealed multiple incised wounds: two on the palmar aspect of both forearms (37 cm and 33 cm long, oriented longitudinally). The cuts extended into the subcutaneous adipose tissue, muscles and blood vessels. There was an additional 30 cm cut extending across the middle of the torso anteriorly and two more cuts on the anteromedial aspect of the lower legs, set symmetrically (about 23 and 25 cm long). These three cuts were more shallow than the upper extremity wounds. No hesitation wounds were identified. Toxicological analysis identified MDMA (ecstasy). The cause of death was exsanguination. The deceased has been using ecstasy for the previous five years and had a history of inpatient psychiatric treatment due to psychosis with delusions and hallucinations. These self-inflicted incised wounds had many atypical features: location (torso, legs and arms), longitudinal orientation and symmetrical distribution, absence of hesitation injuries, use of both dominant and non-dominant hand. The absence of previous suicide attempts and suicide note suggest that these self-inflicted injuries were not planned beforehand, but were abrupt. We hypothesize that this injury pattern is associated with both acute and chronic effects of MDMA.

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This work was supported by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of the Republic of Serbia, Grant No. 45005.

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Correspondence to Vladimir Živković.

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Nikolić, S., Cvetković, D., Ječmenica, D. et al. Atypical longitudinal self-inflicted incised wounds as a cause of death in an ecstasy user. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 18, 197–200 (2022).

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  • Autopsy
  • Suicide
  • Incisions
  • Self-inflicted wounds
  • Longitudinal incisions
  • Ecstasy