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Epitome of China’s Unnatural Deaths: A Historically Retrospective Study of Forensic Autopsy Cases in Shanghai Public Security Bureau From 1990 to 1999

He, Meng MD*; Li, Wen-Can MD†‡; Sun, Da-Ming MD§; Ma, Kai-Jun MD; Zhao, Zi-Qin MD*; Li, Bei-Xu MD, PhD*; Li, Ling MD*∥

American Journal of Forensic Medicine & Pathology: September 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 3 - p 218–221
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000115
Original Articles

Abstract: The unnatural death investigation in China seems vague to the world. Shanghai is one of the largest city located in Yangtze River Delta in the East China. This study is committed to lift the veil of unnatural death investigation and describe the epitome of China’s unnatural deaths. Based on the 7302 forensic report archives from 1990 to 1999 in Shanghai Public Security Bureau, statistics were carried out in 5 areas according to the manner of death. In 3502 accidental deaths, there was a rapid increase during the 1990s, and 71.6% were involved in traffic accidents whose major cause of death was head and neck injuries. The first 3 causes of death in nontraffic accidents (994) were head and neck injuries (42.8%), poisoning (11.8%), and drowning (9.0%). In 2456 homicides, sharp force injury (36.7%), blunt force injury (35.8%), and manual strangulation (12.9%) were the first 3 causes of death. In 563 suicides, drug/chemical intoxication (40.1%), hanging (23.4%), and injuries because of fall from height (11.4%) were the 3 leading causes of death, especially pesticides ingestion. The causes of natural deaths were diseases mainly in circulatory system (23.1%), central nervous system (12.8%), and respiratory system (6.4%). However, the cause of death remained undetermined in 500 victims. Childhood fatalities were different. The victims of accidents and homicides were nearly equal, and the main cause of homicide was manual strangulation. Besides, 1997 was the landmark year when drug abuse began to emerge in Shanghai.

From the *Department of Forensic Medicine, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Fudan University; †Shanghai Key Laboratory of Crime Scene Evidence, Institute of Forensic Science, Shanghai Public Security Bureau; ‡Institute of Criminal Science, Pudong Branch of Shanghai Public Security Bureau; §Forensic Science Center, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China; and ∥Division of Forensic Pathology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

Manuscript received July 15, 2013; accepted June 10, 2014.

Meng He and Wen-Can Li the first 2 authors have equally contributed to this work.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Bei-Xu Li, 138 Yixueyuan Rd, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200032, People’s Republic of China. E-mail: Zi-Qin Zhao, 138 Yixueyuan Rd, Xuhui District, Shanghai 200032, People’s Republic of China. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.