A Forensic Study of Unnatural Deaths in Kuwait: Epidemiological, Virtual Autopsy and DNA Investigations

Al-Kandari, Nadiah M J (2012) A Forensic Study of Unnatural Deaths in Kuwait: Epidemiological, Virtual Autopsy and DNA Investigations. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Forensic science is growing rapidly in the world today. During the past decade, medico-legal investigations have been highly expanded to include all areas of forensic science. The present study investigated three important aspects of forensic biology. First, this present project investigated, a total number of 5,703 reported medico-legal cases diagnosed as un-natural deaths by The Forensic Department in Kuwait, during the year 2003-2009. The results show that accidental, homicidal and suicidal deaths accounted for 86%, 8% and 6%, respectively. The results showed that most people who died of unnatural deaths were more predominant in the age group 20-29 years (third decade). Road Traffic Accidents accounted for 65% of accidental deaths, and 4% out of them were related to alcohol consumption. The results also illustrated that the highest rate of homicide in Kuwait was due to stab wound injuries (38%) compared to the lower rate of homicidal pattern for infanticides (3%). Similarly, the study showed that the most common method of suicide in Kuwait was death by hanging and this accounted for (60%). This study further demonstrated the effectiveness of virtual autopsy technique as a new tool in forensic investigations to determine various un-natural death causes. A total of thirty (30) male forensic cadavers were employed in this project. The cases were RTA (11), firearm injuries (10), drowning (4), head injuries (3) and lastly strangulation (2). All these cases were compared to the findings of traditional autopsy. The results show similar findings for virtopsy compared to traditional autopsy. This study clearly revealed that virtopsy could be an effective alternative in certain situation, being noninvasive and rapid. The present project also investigated 28 samples of human blood, saliva or semen. The experiments were done at four different temperatures (55°C, 37°C, 24°C and 4°C) and four different humidity ranges (41%, 55%, 58% and 61%), respectively. The results showed that, DNA quantity in blood, saliva and semen samples remained more or less the same at temperatures of 4°C, 24°C and 37°C compared to values for day one with all other days. In contrast, when the temperature was raised to 55 °C, the DNA started to degrade with time until it reached zero at day 12 for saliva and day 15 for blood, but not for semen. The results clearly show that DNA in saliva and blood samples is extremely sensitive to heat compared to semen. In conclusion, the study reveals the different causes of unnatural deaths, the value of virtual autopsy and the need for early DNA measurement in Kuwait.

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