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Minerva Medicolegale 2006 March;126(1):81-91

language: Italian

Organisational aspects of emergency in the event of mass disaster

La Sala E. 1, Blancato I. 2

1 Dipartimento di Medicina Legale Area Criminalistica, Ospedale Gradenigo, Torino
2 Cooperativa Sociale “Agape Madre dell’Accoglienza”, Torino


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Humankind has always had to deal with catastrophes, meant as a sudden change of the pre-existing reality, with the consequential loss of individuals either from within a community (as in earthquakes, flooding, fires, landslides etc.), or assembled for a particular occasion (as in aviation, maritime or rail accidents etc.). In order to cope with such deadly events, every country has been adequately organised, according to their experience and the potentials available on the territory. Once the survivors are safe, the major issue for the rescuers and the national authority is to identify the victims. This implies a series of issues, above all the legal one. As a matter of fact, to scientifically establish that a physical subject is deceased involves a series of legal consequences, with an obvious alteration of the civil status. The second but no least concern is to recover, identify and reassociate fragments of human remains, so they can be given back to their relatives to get a proper burial. However, looking through the forensic science books and, moreover, examining at some of the recent disasters show that the identification process difficulties rise numerously in the event of a mass disaster. This paper aims to examine the various methodological aspects necessary when a disaster happens. Starting by explaining what a mass disaster is. Subsequently, the role of the police, forensic doctors, and psychologists will be examined, highlighting their modus operandi. Potential improvements will be suggested.

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