Abstract

In recent years, the increasing number of asphyxiation cases due to helium inhalation is remarkable. All described cases in the literature where diagnosed as suicide. In this article, however, we describe a triple infant homicide in which helium, as balloon gas, was administered to three young children after sedation causing asphyxiation and death through the medical findings and toxicological analysis. During autopsy, in addition to standard toxicological samples, gas samples from lungs as well as lung tissue itself were directly collected into headspace vials. Besides routine toxicological analysis, which revealed toxic levels of doxylamine, qualitative analysis on gas and lung samples was performed using headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. As carrier gas, the commonly used helium was replaced by nitrogen. In gas samples from lungs of all three children, no helium was found. Nevertheless, lung tissue samples were found positive on helium. Therefore, sedation followed by asphyxia due to helium inhalation can strongly be assumed as the cause of death of all three children.

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