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A Study on Cases of Fatal Burns and Their Preventability


H. T. D. W. Ariyarathna

University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda, LK
About H. T. D. W.
Department of Forensic Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences
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Introduction: Although the demography of burns is frequently studied a number of preventable deaths have been reported warranting a justification. Prevention is primarily associated with the addressing of root causes/underlying causes. Mere statistics related to fatalities of burns without identification of the underlying causes do not serve the purpose of prevention. Demography of burn mortalities, strengths and weaknesses of the current practices are addressed to achieve primary prevention.


Method: The postmortem reports of fatal burn (dry burns) cases were collected from the respective forensic pathologists of the Office of the JMO at Colombo South Teaching Hospital from August 2015 to August 2020. All the postmortem reports were retrospectively studied in order to collect data. The data was analyzed with the SPSS software to study the demography of the burn fatalities.


Results: There were 54 deaths due to burns with male to female ratio being 1:3 (13:41) and the mean age was 51 years (SD of ± 23.8). Accidental burns were the commonest followed by suicides. Kerosene and related apparatus were the main culprit followed by flames (caused by diesel/ petrol) and burns due to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG). With the study findings one of the stipulations was that a number of deaths could have been prevented with simple, yet effective interventions.


Conclusion: It is futile to accumulate mortality statistics related to dry burns, unless they are used for preventive purposes. In this regard, a Forensic Pathologist (FP) can play an important and a substantive role in the prevention of such injuries. There is no provision to obtain a detailed history from ward patients by clinicians as the number of patients are more. Whereas a FP encounters only a few deaths a year enabling him to study the incidents in detail to identify the circumstances or underlying causes, in order to help in the prevention of unwanted deaths due to dry burns.
How to Cite: Ariyarathna, H.T.D.W., 2020. A Study on Cases of Fatal Burns and Their Preventability. Medico-Legal Journal of Sri Lanka, 8(2), pp.1–6. DOI:
Published on 30 Dec 2020.
Peer Reviewed


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