Happy Monday to all. This week's Medical Monday question comes from J.C. Martin. She asks:
"In one of my WIPs, a guy gets electrocuted in the bathtub. What would the body look like? Would there be blisters? Would the hair be frizzy if his head is out of the water? Would there be a smell of burnt flesh in the air? And if the man was wearing some metal jewelery that was also unsubmerged, would it burn a mark on his skin?"
Okay, well forensics is not my area of expertise, so I had to do a bit of research for this answer. I'll also qualify this answer with the fact that though I got an A in physics, I hated it. So I forgot it as quickly as possible. Hence, my physics is pretty rusty right now.
So in a bathtub-electrocution scenario, an electrical appliance falling into a tub will cause an electrical current that will want to get grounded to the earth. The current will go through the water (pure water itself isn't a great conductor, but becomes good when mixed with minerals from Poor Victim's salty skin, or if the water is heavily mineralized to begin with).
Poor Victim isn't a great conductor either, but in water, his skin's conductivity increases. So the current goes through the water, through Poor Victim, and boom. He's electrocuted. Now, it's not a huge shock, but he probably can't get out of the tub. And if the electrical appliance doesn't shut off, the current continues.
How will Poor Victim die? The current, if running through his chest (say, submerged below the waterline) may cause his heart to fibrillate and eventually stop. That's death possibility #1.
He also might be stunned enough that he won't be able to get out of the tub, slip under, and drown. That's death possibility #2.
What would the coroner find? Possibly the following:
- blistering on the body
- no obvious entrance and exit electrical wound (often called joule marks), as the whole body was conducting electricity. Unless--Poor Victim had touched a metal faucet and the exit occurred that way.
- No hair frizziness. That's more often seen in hi voltage accidents.
- No jewelry burns, same as the hair stuff.
- A pale colored line, possibly with blisters, around the body at the water level ("border-zone-phenomenon")
- No burned flesh smell)
- +/- Evidence of drowning (water in the lung)
- blood pooling on the lower parts of the body
And I used Wikipedia to brush up on my amps, currents, volts, resistances, electric shocks...
Have a shocking Monday. Er. On second thought, don't!