Sudden unexpected death due to Graves' disease during physical altercation

Dengming Wei, Xiaogang Yuan, Tiantong Yang, Lin Chang, Xiang Zhang, Allen Burke, David Fowler, Ling Li
Journal of Forensic Sciences 2013, 58 (5): 1374-7
We report a case of a 30-year-old woman who suddenly collapsed after having a physical altercation with her husband. Despite immediate resuscitation, she died on arrival at the hospital. The victim's parents requested an autopsy because they believed that their daughter was killed by her husband. Postmortem examination revealed that the victim had a diffusely enlarged thyroid gland and cardiomegaly with left ventricular hypertrophy. There was no evidence of significant trauma on the body. Further postmortem thyroid function tests and review of her medical history indicated that her death was due to Graves' disease. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case reported of sudden death due to cardiac arrhythmia from Graves' disease induced by physical and emotional stress associated with the criminal activity of another person. The autopsy findings are described. In addition, the literature is reviewed and the significance of postmortem evaluation of thyroid hormones in the cases of sudden death is discussed.

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