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Basic principles of stable isotope analysis in humanitarian forensic science.

Chesson, Lesley A.; Meier-Augenstein, Wolfram; Berg, Gregory E.; Bataille, Clement P.; Bartelink, Eric J.; Richards, Michael P.

Authors

Lesley A. Chesson

Wolfram Meier-Augenstein

Gregory E. Berg

Clement P. Bataille

Eric J. Bartelink

Michael P. Richards



Contributors

Roberto C. Parra
Editor

Sara C. Zapico
Editor

Douglas H. Ubelaker
Editor

Abstract

While the identity of a victim of a localized disaster – such as a train or bus crash – may be established quickly through personal effects, fingerprints, dental records, and a comparison of decedent DNA to family reference specimen DNA, a different scenario presents itself in mass disasters, such as the Asian Tsunami of 2004. In the aftermath of the tsunami, visual appearance was initially used to assign “foreign” or “indigenous” classifications to the remains of thousands of victims. However, this visual identification approach was undermined by the speed with which bodies deteriorated under the hot and humid conditions. Time was spent populating ante-mortem DNA databases for different nationalities, which led to problems when creating a post-mortem DNA database because recovery of viable DNA was compromised due to rapid decomposition. As a consequence, only 1.3% of victims were identified by DNA; in contrast, 61% were identified based on dental examination, although this process took several months and a significant number of deceased from the 2004 Asian Tsunami still remain to be identified.

Publication Date Feb 10, 2020
Publisher Wiley-VCH Verlag
Pages 285-310
Series Title Forensic science in focus
Book Title Forensic science and humanitarian action: interacting with the dead and the living.
Chapter Number Chapter 20
ISBN 9781119481966|
Institution Citation CHESSON, L. A., MEIER-AUGENSTEIN, W., BERG, G. E., BATAILLE, C. P., BARTELINK, E. J., and RICHARDS, M. P. 2020. Basic principles of stable isotope analysis in humanitarian forensic science. In Parra, R.C., Zapico, S.C. and Ubelaker, D.H. (eds.). Forensic science and humanitarian action: interacting with the dead and the living. Forensic science in focus. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-VCH Verlag [online], pages 285-310. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119482062.ch20
DOI https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119482062.ch20
Keywords Mass disasters; Identity; Victims; DNA; Dental records; Isotopes

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