Suicidal or Homicidal Sharp Force Injuries? A Review and Critical Analysis of the Heterogeneity in the Forensic Literature

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Abstract

The differential diagnosis between self-inflicted and nonself-inflicted, suicidal and homicidal, injuries is difficult or impossible in many cases and, above all, cannot be made on the basis of information obtained solely from the autopsy or the medicolegal clinical examination. The purpose of this study is to analyze the literature on suicidal and homicidal sharp force injuries and identify the relevant parameters that may help differentiate between suicidal and homicidal deaths. To achieve this goal, a review of 595 potentially relevant articles was performed. After excluding the nonrelevant papers by screening the titles, all abstracts were reviewed, and articles meeting the inclusion criteria underwent a full-text review. The following parameters were compiled into a table: number of cases, localization of the injuries, and number of injuries. The data were statistically analyzed and compared with those available in the forensic literature. On the basis of the heterogeneity of data revealed by the present review, a simple and short checklist of the parameters that should be included when reporting suicides and homicides by sharp force has been proposed.

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