(Received 20 June 2000; accepted 13 October 2000)
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All deaths due to descent from height that underwent autopsy at the Manhattan Office of Chief Medical Examiner of New York City over a two year period (1997–1999) were reviewed. The scene and autopsy findings, psychiatric history, and toxicology results were examined. There were 120 deaths: 77 suicides, 36 accidents, 5 undertermined, and 2 homicides. Psychiatric illness was reported in 86% of suicides. The toxicological detection of psychiatric medications supports the high percentage of psychiatric disease in the suicide group. In the accidental group, the detection of ethanol and illicit drugs was higher (36%) than expected from the case investigation and similar to the suicide group (29%). Accidental falls by women made up fewer than 3% of all manners. Due to the variation in the extent of injuries, it is unwise to attempt to conclude how high a person descended based on the autopsy findings. Descents into water commonly have minimal findings on external examination with marked internal injuries. The methods of investigation and criteria for death certification using the study results are discussed.
New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, New York, NY
Stock #: JFS15111J