Assault by burning can take several forms and may be performed for a variety of reasons.


Types of burns:

(1) scald with hot water or fat

(2) chemical burn

(3) direct burn with a hot object or flame (cigarette, lighter, blow torch)

(4) covering with a flammable fluid then lighting it


Motivation for assault by burning:

(1) anger with an impulsive act (not premeditated)

(2) revenge

(3) punishment

(4) instructional, delivering a message (usually limited in extent, for example to a fellow gang member)

(5) extract information

(6) intimidate or terrorize

(7) mental illness (with an underlying delusion)


The motivation will determine what is burned and to what extent. Some are purely accidental, some are intended to kill the victim, and some are done to change behavior.


Differential diagnosis:

(1) suicide

(2) intentional self-harm

(3) child or spousal abuse


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