Skin lesions and traditional folk practices: a medico-legal perspective

Alessia Viero, Alberto Amadasi, Alberto Blandino, Alessandra Kustermann, Massimo Montisci, Cristina Cattaneo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The correct assessment of signs of abuse on the skin is a challenge of utmost importance for both clinical and forensic applications. This review aims to investigate how differing cultural behaviors influence the perception of abuse, focusing on the need for a multidisciplinary approach and investigation. A literature search for articles that discussed folk practices from a forensic perspective was performed; articles with reference to abuse in the description of the main folk healing techniques and with reference to the differential diagnosis between physical abuse and skin injuries due to folk healing techniques were selected. A synoptic table of all skin injuries produced by folk healing techniques, divided by geographical area, was created. This table can be used as a tool for the thorough assessment of typical signs detectable on the skin, thus aiding in a differential diagnosis. The first approach to the patient represents a crucial step toward the identification of abuse; forensic practitioners ought to be aware of the existence of folk healing techniques which may mimic signs that can be interpreted as physical abuse in children and adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)580-590
JournalForensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Bruising
  • Clinical forensic medicine
  • Differential diagnosis
  • Folk healing techniques
  • Physical abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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