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24.12.2016 | Case Report | Ausgabe 3/2017

International Journal of Legal Medicine 3/2017

Death of a seven-month-old child in a washing machine: a case report

Zeitschrift:
International Journal of Legal Medicine > Ausgabe 3/2017
Autoren:
Antonio Osculati, Silvia Damiana Visonà, Laura Re, Marta Sozzi, Francesca Castelli, Luisa Andrello, Claudia Vignali

Abstract

The authors present a case which brings out a unique modality of child homicide by placing the baby in a washing machine and turning it on. The murder was perpetrated by the baby’s mother, who suffered from a serious depressive disorder. A postmortem RX and then a forensic autopsy were performed, followed by histologic examinations and toxicology. On the basis of the results of the autopsy, as well as the histology and the negative toxicological data, the cause of death was identified as acute asphyxia. This diagnosis was rendered in light of the absence of other causes of death, as well as the presence of typical signs of asphyxia, such as epicardial and pleural petechiae and, above all, the microscopic examinations, which pointed out a massive acute pulmonary emphysema. Regarding the cause of the asphyxia, at least two mechanisms can be identified: drowning and smothering. In addition, the histology of the brain revealed some findings that can be regarded as a consequence of the barotrauma due to the centrifugal force applied by the rotating drum of the washing machine. Another remarkable aspect is that we are dealing with a mentally-ill assailant. In fact, the baby’s mother, after a psychiatric examination, was confirmed to be suffering from a mental illness—a severe depressive disorder—and so she was adjudicated not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity. This case warrants attention because of its uniqueness and complexity and, above all, its usefulness in the understanding of the pathophysiology of this particular manner of death.

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