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Self-Induced Fatal Air Embolism: Accidental Autoerotic Death or Suicide?


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Manoel E.S. Modelli, M.D., Ph.D.

Federal District Civil Police

Institute of Legal Medicine

SQS 210 Bloco D

Apto 604 Brasília

Brazil, Brasília 70273-040




Autoeroticism comprises behavior deviations aimed at producing sexual gratification through the manipulation of one's own body. The use of asphyxia and the induction of pain (masochism) are well-known examples. “Atypical forms” of such behaviors have appeared in the literature as isolated cases. Fatal air embolism is most common in women (causing abortion), being very rare in men (urethral trauma). The authors present a probable case of air embolism associated with signs of autoeroticism, instrumented by the delivery of air through a system formed by a compressor (typical of those used in refrigerators), a syringe barrel, a segment of latex tubing (tourniquet), and a needle, which was found inserted into the glans penis of an adult male. The hypothesis of accidental death was chosen due to the findings at the scene. The body was decomposing when found, which hampered the conduction of examinations.

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