Death From Starvation

The post-mortem appearances in death from starvation are as follows:

There is marked general emaciation; the skin is dry, shrivelled, and

covered with a brown, bad-smelling excretion; the muscles soft,

atrophied, and free from fat; the liver is small, but the gall-bladder

is distended with bile. The heart, lungs, and internal organs are

shrivelled and bloodless. The stomach is sometimes quite healthy; in

other cases it may be collapsed, empty, and ulcerated. The intestines

are also contracted, empty, and translucent.

In the absence of any disease productive of extreme emaciation (e.g.,

tuberculosis, stricture of oesophagus, diabetes, Addison's disease),

such a state of body will furnish a strong presumption of death by


In the case of children there is not always absolute deprivation of

food, but what is supplied is insufficient in quantity or of improper

quality. The defence commonly set up is that the child died either of

marasmus or of tuberculosis.

In cases where it is alleged that a child has been starved and ill-used,

one must examine the body for signs of neglect--e.g., dirtiness of

skin and hair, presence of vermin, bruises or skin eruptions. Compare

its weight with a normal child of the same age and sex. If the

disproportion be great and signs of neglect present, then the

probability is great (provided there be no actual disease present) that

the child has been starved.

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