Forensic pathologists tell physiologists what they know about death and what puzzles them

he speakers at the Forensic Medicine symposium and the cases they will discuss are as follows:

Deaths associated with police restraint or force

J. Keith Pinckard, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science, both in Dallas, will discuss sudden deaths that occur when police restrain or use force to subdue an individual who may be violent or highly agitated, as in the case of cocaine-induced agitated delirium.

These deaths are likely due to a combination of the restraint and force used and the individuals physiological condition. Restraints include choke holds, carotid sleeper holds and hog-tying. Force includes the use of Tasers, a device to zap uncooperative individuals with electrical pulses of high voltage and low amperage. In some cases, deaths have occurred after both restraint and force were used together and in other cases when either restraint or force was used.

Research is needed to help explain what factors contributed to these sudden deaths. It is likely they are due to a complex interaction of factors such as intoxication, mental illness, or health status, combined with a violent, even if brief, struggle.

Deaths due to asphyxia

Amy C. Gruszecki, D.O., an assistant professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Science, both in Dallas, will discuss sudden deaths due to asphyxia, including drowning, suicide by hanging and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

After researchers noticed that infants who sleep on their backs had much lower death rates than those whose parents placed them on their stomachs, pediatricians recommended infants sleep on their backs. SIDS deaths dropped 40 percent. However, SIDS remains a problem and little is known about why it strikes some children and not others. In at least some cases, research has alread

Contact: Chris Guilfoy
American Physiological Society

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