Forensic Science

Hanging : Classification, Autopsy findings & Medicolegal Aspects

Hanging : Classification, Autopsy findings & Medicolegal Aspects


  • Hanging is defined as complete or partial suspension of the body by a ligature tied around the neck and force of
    constriction on the neck being applied by the weight of the body hanged.

Causes of Death

  • In hanging, death is usually due to asphyxia or cerebral anoxia or vagal inhibition leading to cardiac arrest or injury to the spinal cord as observed in judicial hanging wherein death is due to fracture-dislocation of the C2C3C4 vertebrae.


  • Complete hanging—both feet are not touching the ground .
  • Partial hanging—both feet or any other parts of the body are touching the ground. Thus, it may be also induced in sitting, stooping, kneeling, lying prone or supine positions.
  • Typical hanging—knot of ligature is on the backside of the neck.
  • Atypical hanging—knot of the ligature is anywhere other than on the backside of the neck. Usually
    location for the knot is near the mastoid process or angle of mandible. Occasionally, it may be under the chin.


  • It has been scientifically accepted that pressure on the neck can result in occlusion of neck structures for respiratory functioning, developing asphyxia.
  • Experimentally, it has been proven that pressure/force of 2 kg (4.4 lbs) and 4-5 kg (8.8-11 lbs) on the neck can occlude jugular vein and carotid arteries respectively, 15 kg (33 lbs) can occlude trachea and 30 kg (66 lbs) can occlude vertebral arteries. All these can bring about gross decrease in cerebral blood flow leading to cerebral anoxia, asphyxia and death.

Autopsy findings

Autopsy findings can be discussed under two heads; external and internal findings.

Medicolegal Aspects 

  • Postmortem Hanging (Postmortem Suspension)
  • SuicidalHanging
  • HomicidalHanging
  • JudicialHanging : Cause of death in judicial hanging is due to injury to spinal cord in the neck because of the fracture and dislocation of upper cervical vertebra C1,2 or 3 and contusion or transaction of the underlying cord.
  • Lynching : Lynching is hanging of a victim who may be criminal by a mob. Thus it is homicidal hanging.
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