Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)


The Phon Effect in the Abandoned Mummified

Author(s): Maricla Marrone, Benedetta Pia De Luca, Stefania Lonero, Francesca Tarantino,Davide Ferorelli, Pierluigi Caricato, Luigi Buongiorno, Francesco Vinci, Serena Corradi & Alessandra Stellacci

Social isolation, confinement in the domestic context up to abandonment, phenomena as serious as they are frequent in modern society, has been emphasized by the advent of the Sars-Covid19 pandemic. The authors report the case of a 39-year-old woman found lifeless and in a partial state of mummification ("hair dryer effect"), lying on her back on the bed and covered, in part, by a quilt. At the foot of the bed a hairdryer was found connected to the electrical outlet. The environmental conditions favored the initiation of special transformative putrefactive processes, such as that of mummification. Investigating a mummified body found, to determine the cause and manner of death, can be difficult for the forensic pathologist. For the definition of the time of death we generally use the degree of evolution of postmortal transformative phenomena which, as we move away from the moment of death, offer less and less possibilities to delimit this period within narrow time limits, especially when these phenomena are strongly affected by the environmental factors in the context of which the corpse has stayed, as occurred in the present case. A careful analysis of the places where the death occurred and the circumstantial data possibly available to the coroner can provide useful data for the proper assessment of the case. The reporting of this event must be considered an important isolated case study for the analysis of the mummification process, as well as a warning light on an increasingly widespread social problem.

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