Uncommon suicide methods in the detention regime in Milan (1993–2019): Forensic contribution on autopsy cases

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
We analysed the recorded cases of suicides committed other than by hanging in prison in Milan. A retrospective analysis was conducted on 25,512 autopsies performed from 1993 to 2019, selecting all the suicides in prison but our attention was focused solely on cases where an alternative mode to hanging was used. From a total of 97 suicide events in prison, 15 were consistent with the established search criteria: 6 victims died from plastic bag suffocation, 4 by direct inhalation of butane gas, 2 associated plastic bag suffocation to inhalation of butane gas, one committed suicide with an edged weapon, one by self-burning and, finally, one by voluntary ingestion of a food to which he was allergic, with the intent of inducing an anaphylactic shock. Our analysis has shown that the landscape of prison suicides is diverse, not limited solely to hanging. Therefore, it is necessary for the forensic scientific community to raise awareness of potentially unusual suicide methods in prisons and, in the same way, for the Penitentiary Administration to put adequate preventive measures and strategies in place.

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