Restoring an identity to unidentified human remains is a crucial part of the process of grieving the loss of our loved one and, for the families of the fallen, a restarting of life. Identification is also a respect for the Human Rights of the dead because without a name a person has no rights.
Forensic experts involved in human identification collect information from police and families of the missing, compare it to identifying characteristics and data collected during autopsy of unidentified human remains and successfully restore the identity of a deceased person.
One of the activities of the human identification process is Identification of disaster victims (DVI) which is a more complex and often international operation. DVI specialists collect dental data and dental x-rays, DNA, fingerprints and other identifying material (tattoos, scars, jewelry during post-mortem examination. Dental autopsies should be a priority in the preliminary identification of reconstruction of the corpse.
Information on victims is also collected from families and relatives. These are usually medical and dental records, but also old x-rays, portraits and selfies showing teeth. The collected data is then compared to the post-mortem data in order, and through a reconciliation process, the identity of the victim is obtained.
Countries have set up DVI teams to meet the best standards of human identification and enable international cooperation as mass disasters very often involve multinational casualties and injuries. International cooperation and the availability of resources are necessary, in order to respect high technical standards, ethics and dignified management of the dead. This is why the association of volunteers Forensic dentistry for human rights was created in 2015 in Lyon and has developed a network of more than 100 experts from nearly 30 nationalities.
Another key best practice in fatality management is training and planning ahead of a potential disaster, so you are ready with specialists and DVI resources when needed. Over the past few years, I have organized training courses with the DVI Europe Dental Team Associationand since 2019 a training program in forensic odontology and human identification at the University of Turin (section of the Legal Medicine of the Department of Scienze of the Public Health and Pediatrics). These programs bring together international experts in all areas of human identification and develop sustainable international cooperation. Currently, we have developed the first university training course on Identification of disaster victims with experts of eight nationalities, with collaborations with agencies such as Blake Emergency, Kenyon International and officers of the Italian Red Cross Military Corps. Our courses are also in English and are open to international participants in order to train the current and future generation of forensic experts.
About the Author:
Teacher. Emilio NUZZOLESE, DDS, LLB, MSc, PhD
Forensic odontologist and associate professor in forensic medicine, responsible for the Identification laboratory of the Forensic Institute of Turin, Italy. Expert witness in civil matters and Criminal Court for Dental Disputes and Professional Liability, Human Rights Activist. Responsible for the training program in forensic odontology. Graduated in Dentistry (DDS) and Legal Sciences (LLB) from the University of Bari, Italy Holder of graduate degrees in forensic medicine, forensic sciences and forensic medicine Dentistry, and a research doctorate (PhD) in analytical morphometry. Odontologist participating in the Interpol DVI Forensic Odontology sub-working group, since 2010. President and founder of the dental team of the DVI Civil Protection Association Europe. Co-founder and former president and elected president of the Forensic Association Dentistry for Human Rights (www.afohr.org). Fellow of the Dentistry Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, since 2011. Officer of the Italian Red Cross Military Corps since 1999 and Officer of the Medical Reserve Corp IT Army since 2007.