When a person dies, it is a legal requirement in most countries for the body to be formally identified. In Australia, it is
the responsibility of the State Coroners to accept the identification and to release the body for burial. Usually, identification
can be carried out by friends or relatives viewing the body and confirming the identity to a member of the police force (visual
identification). In some cases, however, postmortem changes such as decomposition, or facial trauma or disfigurement, incineration
or skeletonisation make visual identification unacceptable. In this instance other methods of identification are attempted.
These include dental, fingerprints, DNA or, as a last resort, circumstantial identification. On a national and global scale,
the issue of identification becomes a particular challenge in situations of multiple fatalities, for example in circumstances
of natural disaster or tragic events such as aeroplane crashes, genocide, war or terrorist attacks. In these situations, identification
of victims becomes one of the primary aims of the disaster relief teams. During the postmortem examination, the pathologist
facilitates identification by examining the body and documenting any unique characteristics that may be useful in identifying
the person. This information can then be used to corroborate any other information on the identification, and becomes especially
useful when visual identification is not possible.
KeywordsMass disaster–Identification–Fingerprints–Birthmarks–Frontal sinus comparison–Tattoo–Postmortem changes