A cadaveric spasm, also called instant rigor or postmortem spasm, occurs post mortem in rare cases. A cadaveric spasm refers to the premature stiffening of a corpse at the moment of death, before rigor mortis takes place. The cause is unknown, but is usually associated with violent deaths happening under extremely physical circumstances with intense emotion. It is possible to mistake a cadaveric spasm for rigor mortis.
Cadaveric spasm may affect all muscles in the body, but typically only groups, such as the forearms, or hands. Cadaveric spasm is seen in cases of drowning victims when grass, weeds, roots or other materials are clutched, and provides proof of life at the time of entry into the water. Cadaveric spasm often crystallizes the last activity one did prior to death and is therefore significant in forensic investigations, e.g. holding onto a knife tightly.
|Hand was in cadaveric spasm with a currency note recovered - LINK|
|“Cadaveric spasm,” or “instantaneous rigor mortis,” in a drowning victim. Note the vegetation clutched in the hand - LINK|
|Decedent clutching a handful of coins - LINK|
|The scene of death showing the victim holding the gun firmly. - LINK|
|A drug addict found dead with his right hand firmly grasping the syringe - LINK|