Electrocution is the sudden and involuntary introduction of large – or persistent – amounts of electricity into the human body. Electrocution is something that kills many people every year and normally it is simply the result of an accident.
Many do it yourself enthusiasts have been the unfortunate victims of Electrocution and this is because of an inability to rewire properly or simply because they are unsure as to what they are doing. Many people find themselves at the receiving end of one of nature’s most dangerous elements without considering the ramifications.
Effect of Electricity on the Body
Low level currents can be introduced to the body and cause nothing more than numbness to the limbs, which can last anything from a few moments to a few hours. However high levels of electricity introduced to the body can kill instantly as electricity enters the body and tries to leave the body again by following the shortest path to the ground.
Low level currents can affect the beating of the human heart, which itself beats because of an internal electrical impulse. These alternating currents (AC) introduced to the body can cause the heart to skip a beat or beat in an unnatural manner, which in turn can lead to cardiac arrhythmias (changes to the heart’s normal beating).
High level shocks simply pass through the body at speed and stop the heart from beating resulting in instantaneous death.
Low level Electrocution, which results in death, in many cases leaves no external visual indicators whereas high level Electrocution causes a burning of hair and skin and leaves very visible scarring.
Analysing an Electrocution Victim
During an autopsy where Electrocution has been the cause of death, the pathologist will look for charring or burn marks around the point where the electricity first entered the body.
The skin will blister and become red and also there may be unusual occurrences of Rigor Mortis in and around the area of the initial Electrocution as Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) – an energy producing chemical in the muscles – is burned off by the electrical current causing the muscles to stiffen.
In very rare instances Electrocution can be used as a means of suicide or murder but as we have already mentioned these instances are few and fair between.
The chosen method for these rare instances is normally to throw an electrical appliance into a bath full of water so that the charge is released into the water and the victim (or indeed in the case of someone taking their own life) is Electrocuted. Water carries electrical charges and if an individual is immersed in water escaping this sudden electrical charge is difficult if not impossible.
For the most part however these instances of Electrocution are normally the results of an industrial or DIY accident where electrics have not been properly maintained or installed.
Also, in some extreme circumstances, the victim can be electrocuted by lightning – something that is common but rarely results in death when it does happen. A lightning bolt can contain anything from 3 to 200 million volts of electricity but the injuries are sustained when the body converts this electrical energy into heat and then burns its way through the body.
It is also important to note that with such extreme heat being introduced to the body that identification can prove very difficult.
Some scientists believe that lightning – in its many different forms – can be the attributed cause of SHC – Spontaneous Human Combustion – something that for many years was considered to be an urban myth.