The role of ethanethiol in deaths from acute poisoning by gas mixtures: A suicide case involving a decomposed corpse and a review of the literature

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
The most common volatile substances used in suicide are liquefied petroleum gas mixtures, which consist of propane and butane gases mixed in different proportions. These substances are odourless and colourless. Some substances, such as ethanethiol, are added to liquefied petroleum gas mixtures to provide a garlic scent. The main causes of death in acute liquefied petroleum gas inhalation are cardiac arrest and asphyxia, but determining the manner of death is difficult. We present a case of a 30-year-old man found dead at home. On his head was a black plastic bag with a hole through which he had run a gas hose connected to a domestic liquefied petroleum gas cylinder tank. Toxicological analysis revealed butane and ethanethiol in his body. This study aims at understanding the lethal role of ethanethiol through the analysis of its chemical action and its influence on decomposition.

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