Body-packing as cause of unexpected sudden death

A. Heinemann, S. Miyaishi, S. Iwersen, A. Schmoldt, K. Püschel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Four fatalities related to smuggling of drugs by body-packing were investigated. The victims were examined at the Institute of Forensic Medicine of Hamburg University between 1983 and 1995, two of them due to 'sudden' unknown cause of death. All victims were male. Two of them were found already dead in a backyard and in a hotel, two other were emergency cases and died at a hospital. Smuggled substances included cocaine (two cases), heroin and amphetamine/caffeine. In all cases, the cause of death was intoxication caused by torn packages which were detected at autopsy. The maximum weight of the packet's contents was 630 g divided in 90 packages. Only one victim was apparently an intravenous drug-abuser. Hair analysis was performed in three cases and revealed in one case a difference between a concealed and a habitually consumed drug. Toxicological analysis revealed that the substances were quite pure and provided evidence that rather long survival was possible following intoxication in three cases, in two cases supported by hospital treatment in the final stage. The procedural regimen in cases of suspected body-packing is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Body-packing
  • Case reports
  • Criminalistic and forensic aspects
  • Drug poisoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Body-packing as cause of unexpected sudden death'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this