A Detailed Note on Rigor Mortis

Rigor Mortis is the state of muscles of a dead body that become stiff with some degree of shortening that follows the period of primary flaccidity. In general, rigor mortis is the stiffening of the muscles after death. Along with stiffening, shortening of the muscles is also observed. The term is derived from ‘rigor‘ which means ‘rigidity‘and ‘Mortis‘ meaning of ‘death’. It is also known as Cadaveric rigidity.  Rigor mortis is the third stage of death and is a sure sign of death. When it is completely developed, the body and the joints become extremely stiff with the flexion attitude of upper limb muscles. It indicates the death of individual cells that is molecular death. In children, rigor mortis may fix a dilated anal orifice and this finding may persist after it has faded. The position of the body in which the rigor mortis is established indicates the position of […]

A Detailed Note on Adipocere Formation

Adipocere formation is the modified form of decomposition which is characterized by the formation of soft, waxy material in the dead body. It is also known as saponification or grave wax. The term adipocere was given by Fourcroy in the year 1789. The term “adipocere” is derived from ‘adipo’ which means ‘fat‘ and ‘cire’ meaning ‘wax‘. This indicates the properties of adipocere intermediate between fat and wax. Adipocere is a grey-white color and is waxy which later develops into a more crumbly to solid consistency thus leading to the solidification of various affected body parts. Moist or aquatic environment, warm temperature, bacterial enzyme action especially of clostridium perfringens, adipose tissue are the major requirements for the formation of adipocere. Oxygen in general inhibits adipocere formation. It can be formed in embalmed and unembalmed bodies also. Mummification and skeletonization may both occur with the adipocere formation. But most of the time […]

Types and Signs of Asphyxia

According to Adelson, asphyxia is a state in a living organism in which there is an acute lack of oxygen available for cell metabolism associated with the inability of the body to eliminate the excess of carbon dioxide. The supply of oxygen to the blood and body tissues is reduced below the normal working level due to interference in the process of respiration. The three main stages of asphyxia are Stage of Dyspnea, Stage of Convulsion, Stage of Exhaustion, and respiratory failure. Asphyxia is considered a state in which hypoxia and hypercapnia happen. Hypoxia of the tissue means the lack of supply of oxygen to the body and hypercapnia means the increased level of carbon dioxide retention in the blood and tissues. The other two terms usually used along with asphyxia are anoxia which means lack of oxygen supply to the body and tissues and hypoxia which is a condition […]

Autopsy Findings in Death Due to Strangulation

A strangulation is a form of violent asphyxial death that is caused by the constriction of the neck utilizing ligature or any other means without suspending the body. It is different from hanging and can be distinguished by observing various features. In strangulation, there is an application of external force due to the compression caused in the neck by hand or a rope, belt, stick, etc.   The cause of death in the case of strangulation might be asphyxia, cerebral hypoxia, cerebral congestion, vagal inhibition, fracture-dislocation of cervical vertebrae, or asphyxia and venous congestion combined. There are different types of strangulation. Based on means used to constrict the neck, strangulation deaths are classified into- Ligature strangulation, Mugging, Bansdola, Garroting, Palmar strangulation, Manual strangulation/Throttling. Based on the manner of death it is classified into Homicidal and Accidental strangulation.  Ligature Strangulation– It is the violent form of death caused by constricting the neck […]

Medical Examination of Rape Victim

Rape is a sexual offense that involves sexual intercourse, or other forms of penetration carried out against the person without their consent. According to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 2013, Section 375 of IPC, a man is said to rape if he, penetrates his penis, to any extent, into the vagina, mouth, urethra, or anus of a woman or insert any object or other part of the body apart from the penis, into her private body parts, manipulate any part of the body, applies mouth or make her do any of the above mentioned with him or any other person.  There are different types of rape like statutory rape, marital rape, custodial rape, gang rape, date rape, stranger rape. Each of them is defined under various sections and subsections of IPC. Section 376 subsection 1, subsection 2, section 376 A, 376 B, 376 C, 376 D, 376 E deals with […]

Autopsy Findings of Starvation

Starvation is the result of deprivation of the regular and constant supply of food, a source of energy, that is required for our health and life. Terms like malnutrition, Cachexia, and emaciation are often used along with starvation. A person can survive up to 10-12 days without water and food and if food alone is withdrawn, then death may occur in 6-8 weeks or sometimes even more. There are mainly two types of starvation- Acute and Chronic. In Acute starvation water and food supply are withheld completely and suddenly. In chronic starvation, there is a gradual deficiency in the supply of food. Factors like age, sex, exposure to cold, condition of body affects death due to starvation. An adult’s food requirement is a minimum of about 2000 calories (if not performing any activity). When 40% of the original body weight is lost, life is at risk. Starvation will result in […]

History, Process and Medicolegal Aspects of Embalming

Embalming is the procedure or the treatment done on a dead body using antiseptics and preservatives to prevent putrefaction thus preserving the body. This process will result in the coagulation of proteins, fixation of tissues, organs get bleached and hardened and blood is converted into a brownish mass. It will cause a chemical stiffening similar to rigor mortis but the actual rigor mortis will not develop. This developed rigidity is permanent and the decomposition can be inhibited for several months. Embalming is done in medical schools to preserve dead bodies for education and dissection, or when the body has to be taken from one place to another like across countries, states for last rituals when transit time required would be more so that decomposition does not occur. It is done by injecting the embalming fluid into the body. It alters the appearance of the body, tissue, and organs, making it […]

Postmortem Evidence of Criminal Abortion

Criminal abortion is the unlawful expulsion of the fetus at any stage of gestation by a qualified or unqualified doctor. It does not come under the rules of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act 1971 and hence is punishable under the law. The motives behind criminal abortion might be female feticide, avoiding the addition of a member to the family especially in cases of poor families, when the child is the product of illicit sexual intercourse. There are several ways to induce criminal abortion. One method is by using abortifacient drugs like Ecbolics, emmenagogues, irritant poisons, systemic poisons, abortion pills, abortion sticks. The other method is by general or local violence. As these procedures might be performed by a skilled or unskilled person and are not done most appropriately, it can have complications or even result in the death of an individual. The immediate complications include hemorrhage, fat embolism, […]

Roles and Responsibilities of a Forensic Pathologist

Forensic pathology is a special field of pathology dealing with the medicolegal investigation of death. Accordingly, it is concerned with certain kinds of cases such as sudden, unexplained, suspicious, unnatural, and violent deaths. A full autopsy is required in most cases to determine the cause and manner of death. A specialist who is specially trained to perform such autopsies is known as a forensic pathologist. A forensic pathologist should have knowledge and training in the field of toxicology, trace evidence, serology, DNA technology, ballistics (wound ballistics). They also ensure that procedures regarding evidence collection are followed properly and coordinate their work with law enforcement operations. Forensic pathologists spend most of their time in the lab to perform autopsies or examine and analyze the samples collected from a crime scene. After the analysis, they prepare a written report and also may testify to the findings in court. Clinical forensic pathologists examine […]

Gender Identification Using Pelvic Bone

Gender identification is an important aspect, especially when information relating to the deceased is unavailable. It is vital to record the death of the person. The first priority in the process of investigating the sex of the person by the forensic investigator is to determine the sex of the deceased individual. Sex determination is done during the case of death due to natural disaster, mass disaster, unidentified body, completely decomposed, mutilated, or fragmented body. In situations where sex cannot be identified from the general appearance, microscopic examination, hormone assay, or gonadal biopsy, determination from various bones of the skeleton is conducted. Gender Identification from bones can be estimated using various features of long bones, skull, and pelvic bones. The most reliable bone used is the pelvic as it is the most sexually dimorphic region of the skeleton. The difference exists because of the crucial role the pelvic plays in the […]

Estimation of Age Using Skull Sutures

Estimation of age plays an integral part in a person’s biological profile employed by forensic anthropologists for the identification of the deceased individual. Age estimation is important especially when the body is in a decomposed state, mutilated, fragmented or skeletonized state. One of the most important parts of the human body is the skull which holds the answers to the primary question of any investigation and identification procedure. It helps to identify gender, race, stature, and estimate the age of the deceased individual.  Estimation of age from the skull can be done by studying the closure of the fontanelle, fusion of bone, suture closure, secondary changes of the skull, and the oldest technique to estimate age was using cranial suture closures. Sutures are a type of fibrous joint found in between the various bones of the skull. Skull bones are united by sutures and the union begins endocranially and proceeds […]

Clinical Features of Coma, Syncope and Asphyxia

Mode of death refers to the abnormal physiological state that pertained at the time of death. It generally refers to the system that stopped its function which initiated the process of death. As per Gordon, there are 4 modes of death:- Anoxic anoxia, Anemic anoxia, Stagnant anoxia, Histotic anoxia. But Xavier Bichat who was a French physician stated three modes of death depending on whether death begins in one or the other three systems, irrespective of what the remote cause of death may be. Those three modes of death are Coma, Syncope and Asphyxia. COMA:-  Death due to failure of brain function/nervous system. SYNCOPE:- Death due to failure of heat function/circulatory system. ASPHYXIA:- Death due to failure of lung function/respiratory system. Here, in this article we will discuss the clinical features of these different modes of death. Clinical Features of Coma It is a state of prolonged unconsciousness. In other […]

Definition and Types of Inquest

An inquest is an inquiry or investigation into the cause of death where death is apparently not due to natural causes. It is done in order to identify the deceased person, place of death, time of death and cause of death. This method of inquiry was first developed in Scandinavia and the Carolingian empire before the end of the 10th century. An inquest helps in safeguarding the legal rights of the victim’s family by knowing full and accurate facts about their loved one’s death. Inquest is a fact- finding process. It is usually held if the cause of death is not clearly certified by the post-mortem examination report and a formal request is . It is done in cases of sudden death, suicide, homicide, infanticide, death due to accident, poisoning, drug mishap, unexplained death, death under anesthesia or an operation table or from postoperative shock, death due to medical negligence, […]

Procedure of a Criminal Trial

Any unlawful act which is against the law and is punishable is a crime. The procedures of the criminal trial decide the punishment for such crimes. India has a well-established statutory, administrative and judicial framework for criminal trials.   The 3 acts which govern the Indian penal laws are: The Indian Penal Code, 1960 (IPC) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C) The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (IEA) According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, there are 3 types of criminal trials i.e., warrant trial, summon trial, and summary trial. A warrant trial is a case relating to the commission of a cognizable offense. Thus, a case that makes one liable for arrest without a warrant are heinous crimes such as homicide, rape, etc. Such cases are usually instituted on police reports, but that can also be done on private complaints. Summons trial means that in cases of non-cognizable offenses, a […]

Rules for Preservation of Medical Evidence

Any substance that is collected using scientific methods from a scene of crime such as blood, semen, or any trace material like hair, soil and so on which after analysis using scientific method, can be produced in the court of law to establish a person’s guilt or prove him innocent is known as evidence. Medical evidence helps in the investigation of both civil and criminal cases. It forms the link between crime and criminal. There are different types of evidence like biological, physical, digital and proper collection. Preservation and packaging are the key factors as improper collection, packaging, and preservation can lead to sample loss, cross-contamination, decomposition, or sample degradation. In case of the death of a person, medical evidence is the most important evidence and is inevitable. The medical evidence is examined using a post-mortem report. Proper preservation of medical evidence can help in DNA extraction and DNA profiling. […]