Background: Fatal intoxications are a topic of great relevance in today’s society. They
typically occur by accidental or voluntary ingestion, but its characterization by a forensic perspective was
not fully explored.
Objective: This study retrospectively reviews fatal intoxication cases autopsied at the northern forensic
medicine services of Portugal, between 2001 and 2013.
Method: For this purpose, we analyzed postmortem forensic medical reports with positive qualitative
analysis for xenobiotics.
Results: A total of 27,778 autopsy reports were analyzed, of which 1,269 cases fulfilled the selection
criteria, representing 4.6% of total number of individuals autopsied during the period under analysis.
Men were involved in most of the cases (73.8%) and most individuals were adults with ages between
36 and 65 years old (57.0%). The highest incidences were medicines (22.9%) and alcohol (15.8%),
followed by their association. Cases of fatal intoxications involving opioids come on fifth place
(5.8%) namely due to accidental overdoses. Moreover, intoxications appeared as the leading cause of
death in reports concerning accidental etiology, with drugs and alcohol associations having a great
Conclusion: Due to morbidity and relevant number of fatal cases, risk prevention measures, such as
public health policies should be implemented to reduce the number of intoxications.