Dead Can Still Tell

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While reading an article in The Florida Times Union, a local newspaper here in Jacksonville, Florida, I came upon this interesting article. This article in detail explains on how the medical examiners office usually identifies a body. Step 1- Friends and Family: About 90 percent of all bodies are identified using friends and family to look at the body or person. If the facial features have been destroyed or damages, other distinguishing marks such as tattoos are used or birthmarks. Step 2- Fingerprints: Although the database for fingerprints is not unlimited, the technique is usually successful in identifying some bodies. Some problems such as burn victims, bodies washed ashore can make fingerprinting hard to determine. Step 3- Dental Records: Just like a snowflake, no two mouths are alike, and once the records are available, comparing teeth is an easy process. The problem is not everyone goes to the dentist like they should. Also, investigators need to have ah idea of who they are looking for to compare records, because there is no dental database. Step 4- Medical Records: Certain medical evidence such as bone fractures, pacemakers, AICD’s, scars, or any previous surgeries can be used for identification. Just like dental records, investigators need some idea of what and whom they are comparing. Step 5- DNA: Medical examiners typically exhaust all other resources before DNA is tested for identification. DNA tests can be expensive and take a good amount of time. Not everyone’s DNA is available for comparison. Medical examiners’ offices still keep several DNA samples on file in case of future investigations or for reference. Step 6- Forensic anthropologist: If a body is very decomposed and all that is left is skeletal remains, an anthropologist can be involved to examine the bone structure to give clues about race, gender and age of the deceased body in question.

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