Burn Care, Self-Immolation: Pain And Progress

04/09/2012 08:23 am ET | Updated Jan 21, 2013
  • Cara Santa Maria Science correspondent, Huffington Post; editor, Talk Nerdy to Me

Editor's Note: A video about burns caused by self-immolation has been removed from this page. Our intent was to spotlight medical aspects of this story, not to trivialize political activity. We regret any confusion or offense this may have caused.

Original Post

Within the past year, dozens of people have set themselves on fire in protest of Chinese rule of Tibet. This is the most recent wave in a centuries-old practice of self-immolation, a ritualistic method of suicide often used to draw international attention to political struggles.

As a science writer, that got me thinking about what actually happens to the body when it catches fire and what technological advances in burn treatment await on the horizon. With the help of experts on the cutting edge of burn science and medicine, I attempted to find answers to these questions and more.

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