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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • forensic pathology;
  • suicide;
  • hanging;
  • partial suspension;
  • full suspension;
  • statistics;
  • neck injury

Abstract

Many studies have been published regarding suicidal hanging deaths, and most forensic pathologists and coroners are very familiar with such causes of death. Forensic pathologists are challenged over their rulings regarding manner of death in part because the general public has a limited scope of knowledge. One such challenge centers on the question of whether a hanging can be a suicide if the individual is not fully suspended. The authors designed a retrospective study to review suspension in hangings and to analyze other criteria used to help in deciding manner of death. We examined 229 suicidal hanging deaths over an 11-year period (1997 through early 2009) using the data from two separate jurisdictions in Ohio. In conclusion, we found that the vast majority (83.4%) of people who hanged themselves were found partially suspended. Among other criteria analyzed, only the presence of petechial hemorrhages and acute neck injury was statistically significant.