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.