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Forensic Sci Int. 2001 Dec 27;124(2-3):163-6.

Suicide by self-immolation in Berlin from 1990 to 2000.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin, Hittorfstrasse 18, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


We investigated retrospectively the forensic autopsy cases of suicide by self-immolation in Berlin from 1990 to 2000. There were 46 cases (35 men and 11 women), corresponding to 0.76% of all known suicides committed in Berlin during this period. The most common reasons for self-immolation were separation from a partner or financial problems. Two individuals had political reasons. There was a history of mental disturbances in 65% of these suicide cases. The location of the self-immolation was outdoors in 65%, the rest were indoors, except for three victims, who committed suicide in their cars. In nearly all cases, the individuals had doused themselves with an inflammable fluid, usually petrol. One-third of the victims died from burn shock, about 20% from a combination of severe burns and inhalation trauma. The median body surface area burnt was 78% for all cases. The blood had a mean 21% carboxyhemoglobin concentration and 0.07 microg/ml of cyanide. Suicide by self-immolation was committed under the influence of drugs in nine cases and of alcohol in 11 cases.

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