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Int J Legal Med. 2001;114(3):191-3.

Fatal neglect of the elderly.

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Institut für Rechtsmedizin, Westfälische Wilhems-Universität, Münster, Germany.


Maltreatment of the elderly is a common problem that affects more than 3% of the elderly. We report on two cases of fatal neglect. Risk factors of victims and caregivers were analysed in the context of the social history. In both cases, the victims had a dominant personality and the abusers (the sons) had been strictly controlled and formed by the parent. The victims showed typical risk factors such as living together with the abuser, isolation, dependence on care, income and money administration. Initially, the victims declined help from outside and self-neglect occurred. The unemployed perpetrators lived in social isolation and depended financially and mentally on the victims. In both cases no mental illness was present but there was a decrease of social competence. Legal medicine is predominantly involved in fatal cases in connection with external post-mortem examinations and autopsies. Also in the living, the medico-legal expert can assist in the identification of findings in elderly persons in cases of suspected abuse.

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