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Sudden and Unexpected Death From Natural Causes in Adults (From Medicolegal Investigation of Death: Guidelines for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigation, Fourth Edition, P 301-342, 2006, Werner U. Spitz and Daniel J. Spitz, eds. -- See NCJ-214126)

NCJ Number
Barbara A. Sampson; Vernard I. Adams; Charles S. Hirsch
Date Published
42 pages
This chapter discusses several medicolegal problems that arise when death occurs suddenly or unexpectedly from natural causes (disease) in an adult.
Sudden, unexpected deaths compose a substantial proportion of the caseload of medical examiners and coroners. Although no age group is exempt from sudden, unexpected death, it is uncommon between the ages of 1 and 30 and after age 70. The most common causes of these deaths are clinically silent, degenerative diseases. Such diseases are infrequent in early life; and by the time a person reaches age 70, there has been some overt symptom of the disease that exposes its lethal potential. In examining diseases that cause sudden, expected death, this chapter divides them into those due to cardiovascular causes and those due to noncardiovascular causes; the cardiovascular causes predominate, with most related to coronary atherosclerosis. In providing information on how sudden, unexpected death can occur due to heart failure, the authors explain the heart and central nervous system as connected via electrical systems whose malfunction for a variety of reasons can cause sudden-unexpected death. The features of various cardiac malfunctions that can produce sudden, unexpected death are described. The other causes of sudden, unexpected death reviewed are chronic alcoholism, chronic intravenous narcotism, HIV and AIDS, morbid obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, pulmonary embolism, other types of embolism, central nervous system causes of sudden and unexpected death, respiratory tract disease, alimentary tract disease, and acute pancreatitis. The chapter concludes with brief descriptions of miscellaneous causes of sudden, unexpected and rapid natural death. 117 references