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Nonchemical Suffocation Deaths in Forensic Setting: A 6-Year Retrospective Study of Environmental Suffocation, Smothering, Choking, and Traumatic/Positional Asphyxia

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There are still several areas of forensic pathology mainly based on tradition, with textbooks explaining and describing common knowledge that is not supported by modern research data. This study is intended to contribute to evidence-based data on nonchemical suffocation deaths in the forensic population aged more than 1 year. From 2000 to 2005, all autopsy cases were reviewed: age, gender, type of suffocation, and manner of death were compiled for all victims (96 cases). In general, the results from this study are concordant with the textbook literature, therefore supporting common knowledge related to manner of death in nonchemical suffocation. However, discrepancies have been underscored in smothering: smothering, contrary to the general belief, is probably not mostly homicidal, and accidental smothering is probably not that unusual. Furthermore, new data without actual literature correlates were obtained in the conducting of this study and are presented here.

Keywords: asphyxia; choking; entrapment suffocation; environmental suffocation; forensic sciences; positional asphyxia; smothering; suffocation; traumatic asphyxia

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, 1701, Parthenais Street, 12th Floor, Montreal, Quebec H2K 3S7, Canada.

Publication date: May 1, 2010


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