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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2005 Mar;26(1):53-62.

Atypical autoerotic death: part II.

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


Autoerotic fatalities encompass a wide array of means and mechanisms used to attain sexual gratification. The most commonly encountered autoerotic practice, specifically, autoerotic asphyxia, denotes death resulting from failure of a release mechanism of the apparatus designed to attain cerebral hypoxia for heightened arousal. Historically, the majority of victims of autoerotic death are Caucasian males under the age of 30. While autoerotic death is most often associated with a constrictive cervical ligature tied to either other parts of the victim's body or to an inanimate object such as a door, several other methods have been reported. These modalities include ligature around the thorax or abdomen, plastic bags covering the face, electrical current, inhalation of a toxic gas or chemicals, or partial or total submersion, known as aquaerotic asphyxiation. This study highlights 11 cases of atypical autoerotic death, including asphyxia with a plastic bag, electrocution, and inhalation of butane and nitrous oxide (N2O). Whereas the manner of death in the majority of autoerotic death cases is deemed accidental, we present and analyze unique and equivocal cases representing 4 different manners of death: accident, natural, suicide, and homicide. The 11 victims were all Caucasian and between the ages of 17 and 55. Ten decedents were males, 1 female. A comprehensive investigation incorporating a thorough scene analysis, gathering of the victim's history, and complete postmortem examination is necessary to elucidate both the cause and manner of death in these atypical cases.

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