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Med Sci Law. 2009 Oct;49(4):301-6.

Suicide by burning barbecue charcoal: three case reports.

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Correspondence: Dr Brooks-Lim, Forensic Pathologist, Office of the Chief Coroner, 920-1801 Hamilton Street, Regina, SK, S4P 4B4.


We report three cases of suicide in Scotland where barbecue charcoal was purposely burned in confined areas (an outbuilding, a car and a bedroom). External examination of the three cases revealed a distinctive 'cherry red' discolouration to the post-mortem lividity and blood and there were no marks or injuries to the bodies to give any cause for concern. Toxicological analysis of femoral blood samples revealed fatal levels of carbon monoxide (70%, 85% and 80% respectively). Considering the history, circumstances and external findings, a 'View and Grant' examination was conducted in all three cases and the cause of death was attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning due to inhalation of burning charcoal fumes. This particular method of suicide is not common in Europe and is more widely reported in the Far East.

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