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How are unidentified bodies handled?

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Quick Answer

To identify bodies, authorities use DNA testing, according to Forensic Outreach. Then, they locate family members and perform in-person death notifications, explains Police One. Death notification is a difficult process that calls for officers to show respect and understanding.

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Full Answer

Sometimes, it isn’t possible to identify bodies through DNA analysis, reports Forensic Outreach. DNA analysis may not work for human bodies that are fragmented, burned or partly dissolved. Post-mortem dental x-rays reveal unique identifying features, such as root curvature, tooth positioning and dental anomalies. This identification method is particularly fruitful for confirming suspected identities. If victims wore custom-made dentures or dentures with identifying marks, these items can also help identify bodies.

Studying surgical implants can assist in body identification, according to Forensic Outreach. Many surgical implants are deeply implanted, which prevents damage. Also, many implants are made from titanium or other durable materials that can survive fires or chemical exposure.

Analysis of surgical implants was instrumental for identifying some victims of the 2009 wildfires that devastated Australia, states Forensic Outreach. Hip prosthetics, pacemaker devices and artery stents are implants that can identify victims. Signs of serious illnesses that affect skeletal structures, including syphilis, tuberculosis and psoriasis, also serve as identifying evidence.

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