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J Forensic Sci. 2007 Jul;52(4):957-9. Epub 2007 May 25.

Agonal sequences in a filmed suicidal hanging: analysis of respiratory and movement responses to asphyxia by hanging.

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Laboratoire de sciences judiciaires et de médecine légale, Edifice Wilfrid-Derome, 1701, Parthenais street, 12 floor, Montreal, QC, Canada H2K 3S7.


The forensic literature on the pathophysiology of human hanging is still limited. Therefore, forensic pathologists often feel uncomfortable when confronted with related questions. Here presented is the filmed suicidal hanging of a 37-year-old man. This recording allows a unique analysis of agonal movement sequences: loss of consciousness (13 sec), convulsions (15 sec), decortication rigidity (21 sec), decerebration rigidity (46 sec), second decortication rigidity (1 min 11 sec), loss of muscle tone, (1 min 38 sec) and last isolated muscle movement (4 min 10 sec). As for respiratory responses, very deep respiratory attempts started at 20 sec. Respiratory movements progressively decreased and completely stopped at 2 min. Despite the fact that extending the presented data on all cases of hanging asphyxia would be a mistake, this case gives a very interesting insight into movement and respiratory response to asphyxia by hanging.

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