Strangulation and Its Role in Multiple Causes of Death

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Abstract

Forensic pathologists have a duty to determine the cause and manner of death and are bound by international guidelines in the completion of the death certificate. Sometimes, there are complex circumstances surrounding a death that cannot be captured in the structure of the death certificate and its requirement of listing only 1 cause of death per line. Cases may have multiple causes of death with comorbid medical conditions or inflicted injuries that equally contribute to the ultimate demise. Compared with other forms of homicide, autopsy evidence of strangulation will often be found with other life-threatening traumatic injuries. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office conducted a retrospective study of strangulation cases that came into the office from mid-2007 to the end of 2016. The purpose of the study was to examine patterns of injuries in strangulation cases and identify those with additional traumatic injuries of commensurate extent that required incorporation into the cause of death. A total of 43 strangulation cases were found, of which there were equal numbers of ligature and manual strangulations (19 each) and 5 cases in which the method was not specified, and decedents were divided: 63% female and 37% male. Fourteen of these cases were recognized to have multiple causes of death, where blunt force trauma was the most common additional cause, and the sex distribution weighed heavily toward the female (approximately 79%).

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