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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2005 Mar;26(1):45-52.

Autoerotic asphyxia: part I.

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  • 1Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.


Fatal autoerotic asphyxia refers to death during solitary sexual activity with self-induced asphyxiation meant to be brief and reversible. However, an unexpected fatality results from a failure of a release mechanism apparatus. The large majority of victims of autoerotic death are Caucasian males between the second and fourth decade. While autoerotic death may encompass a myriad of other means of achieving sexual gratification, which includes asphyxia by plastic bag or inhalation of noxious chemicals, the most common method is by ligature about the neck. This study presents a 9-year retrospective review of deaths due to autoerotic asphyxia, specifically ligature asphyxia, in Kentucky between 1993 and 2001. Of the sixteen victims, all were Caucasian males between the ages of 14 and 59 years, with a mean age of 38.3 years. Cross-dressing was a feature in 4 cases. A thorough review of the decedent's background, meticulous scene investigation, and complete postmortem examination may shed light on the mechanism and psychosocial predisposition associated with autoerotic asphyxia.

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