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March 2, 1935


JAMA. 1935;104(9):744-745. doi:10.1001/jama.1935.02760090048016

Sudden death may be violent, accidental, self inflicted, due to natural causes or unexpected. The suddenness with which death occurs may vary. The death may be unexpected by the victim's friends but anticipated by the person, family or physician. Violent death may be unexpected by the person but planned by others. The interpretation of the factors surrounding sudden death are therefore somewhat dependent on the point of view.

The medicolegal importance of sudden death is manifest. Medical testimony as to the exact cause of such death has done much to refute the now classic epigram "Witnesses may be divided into ordinary witnesses, liars, damned liars and expert witnesses." Thus Burke-Gaffney1 cites several instances of sudden death apparently due to violence or poisons in which careful necropsy revealed a "natural cause" as the primary factor. Of equal legal and sociological interest are the cases in which the reverse situation has