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Medico-Legal Study

K.H. Oswal and K.A. Rangari

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Medico-Legal Study of Head of a Newborn

A head of an infant in a glass jar containing formalin was sent through police from the Government Hospital of Panvel (New Bombay) to our department. The accompanying report stated that animals such as dogs had probably eaten the rest of the body and it was lying amongst grass in an open space by the side of the locality. The Medical Officer of the Government Hospital certified it as the head of a premature newborn with foetal age of six months. It was sent to Anatomy Department for identification of age and sex.

On external examination, the thick hairy scalp, the rough hairs and skin (probably due to formalin), well developed auricles, well developed eye lids without eye-lashes and pupillary membrane were suggestive of foetal age between six and seven months probably, or it was a premature delivery of a non-viable foetus, either spontaneous or induced. The sex could not be identified due to missing of the rest of the body. An abrasion of the size of 4 cm x 1 cm below chin and a sharp cut margin of neck were present suggestive of injury marks of decapitation with weapon.

The questions arising in this case were:

  1. Whether foetus was viable or non-viable,
  2. Whether delivery was spontaneous or criminally induced, and
  3. Whether it is an infanticide or accidental incidence?

All these questions could not be answered satisfactorily due to lack of history and insufficient investigation by police.