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20.10.2018 | Lessons from the Museum | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology 1/2019

Surviving a transfixing gunshot wound to the head 70 years ago

Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology > Ausgabe 1/2019
Patricia Shirley de Almeida Prado, Sergio Ricardo Marques, Yara Vieira Lemos, Eugénia Cunha


Surviving a gunshot wound to the head is a rare event, particularly in the past when medical treatment was much less advanced than it is today. Moreover, the finding of such a case as an identified specimen within a museum collection is even more uncommon. This led us to report on this unique case in this paper as it poses a challenge to forensic anthropology and provides a unique educational oppourtunity. The skull from the Collection at the Cranium Museum in the Department of Morphology and Genetic at the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) dates back to 1946. For trauma registration the bone location, severity, trauma aetiology, trauma classification, description, callus formation, periosteal reaction, degree and success of repair, and an estimate of the time elapsed since the trauma, were all assessed. To explore the case radiologically a CT scan of the skull was performed. Considering the survival of the patient and the morphology of the wound it is likely that the injury was caused by a small calibre, low-velocity gunshot. The bullet path shows an almost vertical direction on the right side of the individual’s splanchno and neurocranium. The path of the projectile is consistent with a suicide attempt, although the possibility of a homicide simulating a suicide cannot be discarded. This case highlights how informative such cases can be to the practice of forensic anthropology.

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