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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

LIGHTNING                                                        199

In exceptional cases a person may fee killed by lightning and yet the
clothing may not be damaged. On the contrary, the clothing may be burnt
and torn off the body without causing any injury to the person.

Glass and metallic articles carried about the person are fused, and steel
articles are magnetized; these may leave their impressions on the skin.

Treatment.—Start at once artificial respiration, and continue it for at
least four or five hours before abandoning the patient. Administer by
inhalation oxygen at high tension. Administer heart stimulants after normal
breathing has been established.

Post-mortem Appearances—External.—Rigor mortis may occur soon
after death and pass off quickly. The lesions mentioned above are usually
present upon the surface of the body, but may be absent in rare cases.

Internal.—The internal signs are not very characteristic. There may be
extensive hemorrhage in the brain which is occasionally lacerated. The
pericardium shows petechial hsernorrhages, and the cavities of the heart are
either empty or full. The blood is usually fluid, but may be found clotted.
Petechial haemorrhages are often present on the surface of the lungs which
are found congested. The blood vessels may be found ruptured, and the
internal organs torn.

The following points should be taken into consideration before an
opinion is given that death was caused by lightning :—

1.   History of a thunderstorm in the locality.

2.   Evidence of the effects of lightning in the vicinity, e.g. damage to
houses or trees, death of cattle, etc.

3.   Fusion or magnetization of metallic substances.

4.   Absence of wounds and other injuries indicating homicidal death.

Illustrative Cases.—1. Edwards describes a case in which he saw a young woman
said to have been struck by lightning on the night of July 27, 1925. Over the right hip
she had a ]arge bruise, about six inches in diameter, with a central area of scorching.
She was also suffering from a mild degree of shock. Her clothes were quite uninjured,
At the time of the accident she had been standing close to the " lead in " of the wireless
aerial. This had completely fused, and it seemed to be the flash from the fusing wire
which had done the damage. She described it as seeming as though the whole of her
right side had caught fire.

Considerable damage had been done to the window frame where the wire entered
the house, and bricks had been dislodged from the wall, although the aerial was
"earthed" by a switch inside the house. Apparently this common form of protection
against lightning is useless. The aerial, which was of seven-strand copper wire, was
fused in several places.—Brit. Med. Jour., Aug. 15, 1925, p. 294.

2.   A woman,  while working in a field, was struck by lightning.    Examination
revealed a mark of the size of a penny at the top of the head where the lightning had
entered the body.   The hair on the occiput was singed.   Along the entire course of the
spinal column a mark from 25 to 30 cm. wide was noticeable, and it was continued on
the back of the thigh.   A second track of lightning branched off at the neck, and a
mark from 2 to 3 cm. wide was visible along the left breast and on the left side of the
abdomen, and from the pubic symphysis it passed over to the right thigh.   The pubic
hair was singed.    The mark of lightning showed several skin defects and coagulation
necrosis, 4 cm. in diameter.   Around these, areas of black discoloration and numerous
small black holes were noticeable.    The heart sounds were weak.    The other internal
organs were normal.   The patient was unconscious for forty-eight hours.   There was a
tear across the tympanic membrane of each ear.   When the woman regained conscious-
ness, the retrograde amnesia with regard to the accident continued.    She complained
of severe pain in the region of the burned areas and of chills.   She recovered in 20 days
after the accident.   On the sixth day a lumbar puncture was made on account of severe
headache.   Burns were treated by tannic acid ointment.—Dengl, Munchener Medfctimscke,
Wochenshcrift, Munich, VoL 78, Jan, 2, 1931, p. 27; Jour. Amer. Med. Assoc., April 11,
1931, p. 1,274.

3.   The following case was reported to me by Major P. N. Basu, UlS., Superin-
tendent of District Jail, Bareilly:—