Indian Baby Tested For Spontaneous Human Combustion

Thursday, 22 Aug 2013 08:05 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Could spontaneous human combustion be responsible for a 3-month-old Indian baby bursting into flames on at least four occasions?

That's the question being asked by the boy's parents, who have been forced to relocate from their home village, and at least one other, over fears from neighbors that the child's possible condition might cause a fire and lead to homes being burned down.

Government officials, responding to the family's pleas, admitted the child into the pediatric intensive care unit at Kilpauk Medical Hospital, in Chennai, India, where staff placed a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher near the baby’s bed as a precaution, The Hindu reported.

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"It has been scientifically documented that concentrated combustion air excreted from the body could result in such episodes," Dr. R. Narayana Babu, head of pediatrics at Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, told the Hindu. "In elderly persons, heavy drinking could lead to the body excreting [an] alcohol-like substance which could get ignited."

Spontaneous human combustion is a condition in which a person's body seemingly spontaneously bursts into flames without an apparent external source of ignition. There have been 200 reported cases as of 1995 worldwide.

One of the most recent documented cases of a death that was attributed to spontaneous human combustion occurred in Ireland in 2011, when a local coroner ruled that a man who burned to death in his West Galway home, died as a result of spontaneous human combustion, the Daily Mail reported.

After performing multiple tests on the child, including chromosome tests, gene analysis and skin biopsies, doctors at Kilpauk Medical Hospital concluded he did not have the controversial condition, which many in the medical field dispute the existence of.

Instead, doctors suggested that a possible cause for the burns suffered by the child was accidental or abuse.

"I still stand by what I said, that there is no such thing as spontaneous human combustion. The possibility of child abuse exists and needs to be explored," said Dr. J. Jagan Mohan, head of the burns department at KMCH, told The Times of India on Wednesday.

In response to the suggestion that abuse could have been involved, the baby's father, Karnan Perumal, told The New York Times, "We're not crazy to burn our own baby."

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"Some people don’t believe us, and I am scared to return to my village and am hoping for some government protection," Perumal added. "There is also the fear that our child could burn once again."

As of Wednesday, the child remained at the medical facility with no scheduled release date, the Times of India reported.

Related stories:

Infant Superglue Saves Baby With Rare Life-Threatening Condition

Baby Rescued From Pipe Had 'Accidentally' Slipped Into Toilet (video)

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