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Minerva Medicolegale 2005 March;125(1):9-18

language: Italian

The issue of unidentified cadavers from a nine-year retrospective study (345 cases): still an unsolved problem

Cattaneo C., Giovanetti G., Porta D., Marinelli E., D'Agostino N., Grandi M.


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The large number of unidentified human remains found in Milano has led the Institute of Legal Medicine of the University of Milan to experiment, since 2001, a new protocol for unidentified bodies called Automated Disaster Victim Identification System (ADVIS) from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This in turn led to a study of all cases from 1995 to 2003, including how unidentified bodies were identified (or what magistrates consider sufficient for identification) and how efficient the protocol may be. The study showed that of 345 cadavers, 65.8% was identified at a later stage, 17.68% is still unidentified and for the remaining 16.52% there is a suspicion of identity but no actual confirmation. For well preserved unidentified cadavers (60.9%) visual identification and fingerprints were the main methods used. For badly preserved cadavers (39.1%) the situation called for anthropological, odontological and genetic techniques, the first 2 being most frequently used. The study showed that ADVIS is a fairly reliable protocol for unidentified human remains, however in order to be appropriately used, pathologists need the aid of anthropologists and odontologists or training in the respective fields. The study also stresses the lack of a national database of unidentified human remains, to be matched with missing persons, the number of cadavers buried without a name, and the superficiality with which certain magistrates consider identified certain cases.

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