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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

ABJPOCERE                                                            141

colour. It^cuts soft, and melts at a flame, or turns -with a feebly luminous
flame, giving off a dull cheese-like, but by no means disagreeable, smell Its
specific gravity being less than that of water, it floats when placed in the
latter. It- is more or less permanent lasting for several years, but becomes
hard, brittle and yellow, when exposed to the air. The results of chemical
analysis of my cases (see below) go to support the following remarks of
Lucas -9 regarding the chemical composition and formation of adipocere: —
"It is evident that adipocere is composed almost entirely of fatty acids,
but that it contains a certain amount of calcium soap and probably in the
early stages of its formation some ammonia soap and therefore from its
chemical composition there can be little doubt that adipocere is the residue
of that fat pre-existing in the body, the greater part of which has undergone
slow hydrolysis by water but some small part of it has been saponified by
ammonia (derived from decomposing nitrogenous tissue), this ammonia
being ultimately replaced by lime."

Sydney Smith30 believes that adipocere is not connected with the forma-
tion of soaps, but it is formed by a gradual hydrogenation process in which
pre-existing fats in the body are converted into higher fatty acids.

Adipocere commences first in the subcutaneous fat, and then in the skin,
muscles and organs. It occurs soon in the female breasts, cheeks, buttocks
and other parts of the body, where large accumulations of fat are found.
As fat is distributed extensively throughout the body, nearly all parts may
undergo this change.

It is rare for the whole body to be converted into adipocere but, when
this occurs the body retains its natural form, outline and facial features so j
well that it may be easily identified years after death.   Wounds inflicted!
on the body before death may also be easily recognized.                               j

Water is necessary for the formation of adipocere,^ that the process
takeslpfeice in bodies which have been submerged kTwater, buried in damp,
clayey soils, or thrown into cesspools. It may, however, occur in bodies
exposed to the air, especially in hot and damp climates. Vaugham31 reports

Fig. 39.—A forearm converted into adipocere,

two cases of such an occurrence. In one case the body of a Hindu female
lay in a dry bed covered with bedding and heavy pillows in a room, and in
the other case the body of a man had lain absolutely naked on the ground
in a hut in a plantation of trees and shrubs.

Time of Formation of Adipocere.—{£ber time required for the formation
of adipocere varies according to the climate. In Europe, it ranges from three
months to one year, though the change may occur in five weeks, or may be
delayed to three years. It is more rapid when a body is submerged in water
than when it is buried in the earth. In India, Dr. Coull Mackenzie 32 found

29.    Forensic Chem,, p. 253.

30.    Forensic Medicine, Ed. IX, p. 33.

31.    Jnd. Med. Gaz., May 1906, p. 161.

32.    Ind. Med. Gaz., Feb. 1889, p. 42.