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~1990s – A 48-year-old landlord’s wife suffering from chronic depression committed suicide with a band saw by amputation of the upper skull including almost the total brain.

There was semi-decapitation with removal of the upper skull and almost the total brain. Traumatic amputation of the pons and partial amputation of the upper cervical part of the medulla oblongata, and multiple superficial hesitation injuries at the right occipital region. Cause of death: central dysregulation from traumatic cerebral lesion, a type of damage to part of the brain.

Fig.1 The female deceased lying beneath the band saw.

Suicides or suicidal attempts with saws are rare, but sensational, due to the unusual patterns of injury. In the forensic literature, case reports exist dealing with the use of band saws, circular saws or chain saws. The injuries are almost exclusively inflicted to the head or the neck.

Fig.2 The two separated parts of the skull.

The case revealed some further interesting aspects. Besides a total ‘semi-decapitation’, a complete and a partial traumatic amputation of the brain stem was found. The complete amputation can easily be explained by the course of the saw blade leading to complete removal of the upper part of the skull and almost the total brain. The partial penetration of the brain stem, however, localized immediately inferior to the complete severance, must obviously be interpreted as a result of a spontaneous movement of the head (perhaps mediated by the vibrations of the blade of the band saw and/or by a change in position of the body after loss of consciousness) since a coordinated reaction cannot be expected with regard to the location of the injury. Furthermore, the evidence of typical hesitation injuries in the occipital region indicated that no other person was involved.

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