Volume 33, Issue 2 (March 1988)
Patterns in Sharp Force Fatalities—A Comprehensive Forensic Medical Study: Part 2. Suicidal Sharp Force Injury in the Stockholm Area 1972–1984
A total of 89 cases of sharp force suicide that had been committed in the Stockholm area in Sweden from 1972 through 1984 were investigated. The series showed a male preponderance, sex ratio 3.3, and among males a shift towards the age group 40 to 49 years of age. An impact of cultural/ethnic factors was indicated by the overrepresentation of Finnish and Hungarian immigrants. A psychiatric diagnosis had been ascribed in 22 cases, and addiction to drugs or alcohol in 23. Previous attempts at self-destruction were recorded in 11 cases, only 1 of which was by sharp force.
Classical indicators of suicidal intent, for example, suicide notes and the presence of hesitation injuries, were found in 28 and 80%, respectively. A preference for certain anatomical locations (throat, precordium, epigastrium, wrists) was confirmed as was the tendency to expose the skin before inflicting suicidal wounds. As compared to homicidal precordial stabs whose entrance wounds usually run vertically, horizontal or upwards/left-slanting stabs are strongly suggestive of suicide. Although cases were encountered where several “rules of thumb” concerning homicidal versus suicidal patterns were violated, our series contained no case of injuries to the backside of the trunk and no case of more than one wound piercing the left ventricle of the heart. Multiple chest wounds transecting costal or sternal bone were however not uncommon, and, along with the use of bizarre tools and objects like wood chisels or pieces of glass, illustrated the determination of suicidal intent.
Toxicological analysis was positive for drugs in 22 and for alcohol in 27 cases. Blood alcohol levels were roughly similar to those found in victims of homicidal sharp force, whereas drug levels tended to be lower or higher in suicides.