Corpse or not? Two peculiar cases of misidentification

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2024 Mar 15. doi: 10.1007/s12024-024-00799-3. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Irrespective of whether they are intended for collectors or for the fetish market, dolls are being produced to look more and more realistic with such a degree of life-like detail that they can be mistaken for a real person. This paper reports two cases of misidentification due to this increasing similarity: In the first case, a sex doll was mistaken for a corpse; in the second case, a corpse was mistaken for a doll. While in the latter case, only medical laypersons were at the discovery site, in the first case, an emergency doctor had issued a medical certificate of death for the purported corpse. The medicolegal examiner who was subsequently called to the scene could still rectify the misconception on-site. Mistakes of this nature are likely rare phenomena. It, however, remains to be seen if the increasingly life-like appearance of dolls on the one hand, and the increasingly doll-like appearance of some people, e.g., through cosmetic surgery, will lead to a rise in such cases. To avoid misidentification as in the first reported case, it is essential to prepare medical students well for the task of performing a primary external postmortem examination; it is equally important that fully-trained doctors regularly refresh their expertise in this respect.

Keywords: Autopsy; Misidentification; Primary external postmortem examination; Sex doll.