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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 193733 Find in a Library
Title: Suicide by Drowning: A 20-Year Review
Journal: Journal of Forensic Sciences  Volume:47  Issue:1  Dated:January 2002  Pages:131-136
Author(s): Darren P. Wirthwein M.D.; Jeffrey J. Barnard M.D.; Joseph A. Prahlow M.D.
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 6
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study examined a series of suicidal drownings that took place in a noncoastal area of Texas.
Abstract: The body recovered from water poses many challenges to the forensic pathologist. Identification is often complicated by decomposition. The vast majority of drowning deaths are accidental and the characteristics of these deaths are well described. However, the phenomenon of suicidal drowning is not understood. This report analyzed 52 suicidal drownings investigated at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, Texas (a noncoastal area) between 1977 and 1996. This type of death accounted for .85 percent of all suicides and 4 percent of all drowning deaths. In comparison, suicidal drowning reportedly account for 2.8 percent to 8.9 percent of all suicides in regions with easy access to water. The study showed that the victims of suicidal drownings were usually sober white males over the age of 40 years. Of the 52 cases of suicidal drowning, 28 were male and 24 were female. Among males, there were 20 Caucasians, 6 Blacks, 1 oriental and 1 Hispanic. Eighteen of the females were Caucasians and the remaining six Black. Ages ranged from 21 to 84 years among males, and 23 to 82 years among females. Twenty-nine drownings occurred in lakes or ponds, nine in pools, six in bathtubs, five in rivers or creeks, one in an outdoor fountain, one in a waste pit and one in a well. Alcohol was discovered in 21 subjects. In conclusion, the data suggested that suicide by drowning was a relatively rare phenomenon in noncoastal regions or regions lacking easy access to water. In addition, those who commit suicide by drowning sometimes use weights to facilitate the process. Figures, tables, and references
Main Term(s): Forensic sciences
Index Term(s): Alcohol consumption analysis; Autopsy; Forensic medicine; Forensic pathology
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