Diatoms in Forensic



The post-mortem examination of drowning, is one of the most difficult problems in forensic.

Although there are some typical signs of drowning known, its still difficult to determine a death by drowning.
The real hard cases are the deceased body's where the post-mortem signs are very difficult or impossible to determine. Worst case, is a skeleton found close to, or into a liquid medium (e.g. water).

If a body is found in water is does not necessarily mean, that this person has drowned. Therefore one have to come up with this questions:

  • drowned the person by conscious (e.g. nonswimmer, suicide)
  • drowned by unconsciousness (e.g. beaten, surfing accident)
  • sudden death (e.g. heart stroke)
  • already dead (e.g. get rid of a body)

If this questions are answered, the forensic pathologist can easier determine if this case is a:

  • natural death in the water
  • a suicide
  • accident
  • a homicide

How can you answer this questions?
If the body is fresh the examiner can find clues that helps him / her to determine a death by drowning. The more deceased the body is, the more it is difficult to find / see those signs of drowning. At this point the examiner should think about the possibilities of the diatoms!