News reports are coming out of India of a “rare medical case” involving a newborn infant who apparently spontaneously bursts into flames. This has occurred four times so far. The baby is now in the hospital being treated for these burns.
The International Business Times, with a headline declaring a “mystery baby,” reports:
Rahul, a native of Tindivanam, Tamil Nadu was admitted to Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital on Thursday for burns reportedly caused by a rare medical phenomenon known as Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) wherein a person catches fire due to emission of inflammable substances through the body.
They do contain some token skepticism, but then go on to discuss the “controversy” over SHC and the various theories about how it might occur. The earliest reports of this case did not even contain the token skepticism, which seems to have crept into the later reports.
Some of the doctors treating the baby seem to take the SHC theory as a given – a rare medical condition. They are seeking to explain how a baby can spontaneously burst into flame. The Daily Mail quotes one doctor as saying.
‘We will carry out tests to find out the kind of gases generated by the baby’.’
I think she meant “if” the baby is generating gas. Others speculate that the baby has inflammable sweat. These are nothing but wild speculations, but they are presented as serious medical hypotheses, while SHC is presented as a real medical condition.
The media has apparently been waiting for medical tests that they somehow felt might shed light on the case. As far as I can tell, these were nothing but routine blood tests, perhaps with some specific tests thrown in, to see if there was anything unusual. Unsurprisingly, these tests came back normal.
At least some of the doctors at the hospital where the baby is being treated understand that SHC is a “hoax theory,” as they are calling it. That is true enough. I have written about SHC previously – there are no confirmed cases and no plausibility to the phenomenon. A typical alleged case involves an infirm overweight individual with an obvious external source of flame, such as a lit cigarette. This is one of those cases when a non-mystery is treated as if it is a mystery and then “explained” with wild pseudoscientific speculation.
Given that the SHC explanation is nonsensical, the most likely (unfortunately) explanation remaining is child abuse.
- Spontaneous Baby Combustion (theness.com)
- 3-Month-Old Baby Self-Ignites (theepochtimes.com)
- How to Explain Spontaneous Human Combustion (psmag.com)
- Indian Baby Suffers from Rare Spontaneous Human Combustion Condition (icantbelieveit.org)
- Indian baby catches on fire – Spontaneous combustion or abuse? (doubtfulnews.com)
- Baby Has Randomly Gone Up in Flames 4 Times (newser.com)
- Baby boy on fire: skin biopsy today at KMC (thehindu.com)