Volume 33, Issue 2 (March 1988)
Evaluation of Sudden Death in Psychiatric Patients with Special Reference to Phenothiazine Therapy: Forensic Pathology
The investigation of sudden unexpected death in psychiatric patients and the ensuing litigation has brought to our attention many unusual features important in the evaluation of such deaths. Certain pathophysiologic mechanisms of death, rarely encountered in routine forensic science practice, may be important in determining the cause of death in psychiatric patients, especially in cases where the autopsy is unrevealing. Of particular concern is a tendency in the current literature to implicate phenothiazines as a cause of death when the death investigation and the autopsies are incomplete. Thus, based on our experience and on a review of the current literature, we have set forth factors that the forensic pathologist should consider when faced with a sudden psychiatric death. A case report illustrates these unique aspects of scene investigation and analysis of terminal events and autopsy findings.