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So-Called Spontaneous Human Combustion

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 56 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 1334-1339
Thierry W. Levi-Faict, M.D., Ph.D.; Gerald Quatrehomme, M.D., Ph.D.
Date Published
September 2011
6 pages
A well-documented case of so-called Spontaneous Human Combustion is reported.
Review of the literature shows that these strange observations have been reported since the 17th century, even in famous novels. There are several main features that may lead to help the diagnosis: the vicinity of the body is intact or nearly intact, some parts of the body are turned into ashes (usually the middle third of the body), whereas other parts are intact or nearly intact, burning of the body usually occurs postmortem, the cause of death is usually natural, there is often (but not always) high concentrations of blood alcohol, there is a source of heat near the body. It is indispensable to rule out a homicide by the examination of the body in situ, the autopsy, the toxicological and histopathological samples, the arson assessment, and a thorough police inquiry. (Published Abstract)