Suicide by helium inhalation has become increasingly common in the last few decades in Europe and the US because it produces a quick and painless death. Inhaled-gas suicides can easily be assessed through death scene investigation and autopsy. However, helium is a colorless and odorless inert gas that unfortunately cannot be detected using standard toxicological analysis. A successful gas analysis was performed following the suicide of a 17-year-old female. For the detection of helium, central/peripheral blood samples and gaseous samples from the esophagus, stomach, and upper and lower respiratory airways (from the trachea and the primary left and right bronchia) were collected with a gastight syringe, ensuring minimal dilution. Qualitative analyses were positive in all gaseous samples. Quantitative analyses were performed using a special gas-inlet system with a vacuum by which the sample can be transferred to a mass spectrometer, reducing the risk of contamination. Helium concentrations were 20.16% from the trachea, 12.33% from the right lung, and 1.5% from the stomach. Based on the high levels of helium, the cause and manner of death were assessed as asphyxia suicide by inhalation of helium. Therefore, toxicological analyses should always be applied in order to gain evidence of inhaled gas in gaseous samples.

Helium suicide, a rapid and painless asphyxia: toxicological findings.

Carfora A;Ambrosio G;Mascolo P;Liguori B;Campobasso CP;
2022

Abstract

Suicide by helium inhalation has become increasingly common in the last few decades in Europe and the US because it produces a quick and painless death. Inhaled-gas suicides can easily be assessed through death scene investigation and autopsy. However, helium is a colorless and odorless inert gas that unfortunately cannot be detected using standard toxicological analysis. A successful gas analysis was performed following the suicide of a 17-year-old female. For the detection of helium, central/peripheral blood samples and gaseous samples from the esophagus, stomach, and upper and lower respiratory airways (from the trachea and the primary left and right bronchia) were collected with a gastight syringe, ensuring minimal dilution. Qualitative analyses were positive in all gaseous samples. Quantitative analyses were performed using a special gas-inlet system with a vacuum by which the sample can be transferred to a mass spectrometer, reducing the risk of contamination. Helium concentrations were 20.16% from the trachea, 12.33% from the right lung, and 1.5% from the stomach. Based on the high levels of helium, the cause and manner of death were assessed as asphyxia suicide by inhalation of helium. Therefore, toxicological analyses should always be applied in order to gain evidence of inhaled gas in gaseous samples.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11591/475550
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