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Fatal Gunshot Wound to the Head With Lack of Immediate Incapacitation

Aesch, Bruno MD*†; Lefrancq, Thierry MD; Destrieux, Christophe MD, PhD†§; Saint-Martin, Pauline MD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 86–88
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000087
Case Reports

Investigation of deaths caused by penetrating gunshot wounds to the head often raises the possibility of foul play. The forensic pathologist may be asked if the victim was able to perform certain acts after the gunshot, and how quickly this person might have become incapacitated. The possibility of a suicidal act can depend on these answers. We report the case of a 45-year-old woman whose body was found with a right temporal entrance wound. A shotgun was found 60 ft from the body location. The question of knowing if this woman had been able to shoot herself in the head and then walk a distance of 60 ft before dying was essential for the investigation, as suicide was the first hypothesis. The autopsy and a careful neuropathology investigation allowed to answer this question. In the literature, multiple publications report cases of victims who were able to act following penetrating ballistic head injury.

From the *CHRU de Tours, Institut Médico-Légal; and †CHRU de Tours, Service de Neurochirurgie, Tours; ‡Résidence Le Vauban, Nevers; and §Inserm U930, Université François Rabelais de Tours, Tours, France.

Manuscript received April 12, 2013; accepted October 27, 2013.

This study has no sources of funding.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Pauline Saint-Martin, MD, Institut Médico-Légal, CHRU TOURS, 37044 TOURS Cedex 9, France. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.