Forensic Adventures: Birthday Boy

The accidental death at home, by hanging, whilst wearing a tutu, of the 13th Earl of Gurney, strikes some people as being both absurd and, if you’ll pardon the expression, a one-off.

True, that particular death is fictional (it occurred near the beginning of the 1972 film The Ruling Class). True, absurdity can be difficult to measure. But, say the authors of a new study called “Accidental Death in Autoerotic Maneuvers,” published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, the incidence of “such practices are underestimated and are only the tip of the iceberg since they do not represent the cases that are never reported due to successful practice.”

The study details a case—actual, not imagined—of unsuccessful practice. The hope is that readers will come to understand, at least a little, the bigger picture. And that picture, the authors tell us, is surprisingly big:

“After analyzing statistics, the results show the highest number of cases reported in Germany, followed by the USA and Canada where incidents of autoerotic asphyxiation death occur between 250 and 1000 cases per year, which equals 1 to 2 deaths per year for one million habitants. In Sweden, cases are reported at 0.1 cases per year based on one million habitants while in Scandinavia between 0.5 and 1 case per year based on one million habitants. Latin countries like Italy result the lowest number of reported accidental autoerotic death cases.”
The authors, Martina Focardi, Barbara Gualco and GianAristide Norelli, are Italian, based at the University of Florence, in the Department.”

(That’s an excerpt from the article “Improbable Research Review,”