Identification of human remains is necessary in modern society for legal, social, and ethical reasons. The need to reach the attribution of identity, in fact, arises not only from worship needs and feelings of human piety towards the deceased but also from considerations of a legal and administrative nature. From 1974 until 2017, 52990 people (9380 Italians and 43610 foreigners) have disappeared in Italy and are still to be traced. 863 unidentified bodies were found in the aforementioned period, of which 231 in Latium Region. In consideration of the importance of the phenomenon, the Italian Government appointed an Extraordinary Commissioner for Missing Persons who was tasked for assessing the total number of unidentified bodies and suggesting appropriate strategies and coordination among the various stakeholders. In the context of these activities, in 2017 a campaign was started for identification of all the human bodies and remains still unidentified and buried in the cemeteries of Rome.
The ultimate goal of this project is to obtain the personal identification of unknown corpses through a multidisciplinary activity that involves various disciplines including Forensic Pathology, Forensic Radiology, Forensic Odontology and Forensic Anthropology. Results arising from the anthropological activity will be correlated with results from radiological, odontological and pathological forensic activities and compared with the data obtained from the authority.
The integration of the methods currently in use will provide an identifying profile for each exhumed human skeletal remains, demonstrating that the proposed experimental approaches are complementary elements in a single working method able to provide reliable results for identification of unidentified bodies.
Currently the identification of human remains can be a challenge for forensic experts, especially in cases where it is not supported by a valid scientific method. Forensic sciences, thanks to the breadth of their field of application, are able to give a substantial contribution to this difficult task by integrating them into the protocols in use.
SPECIFICALLY, IT IS BELIEVED THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AN INTEGRATED APPROACH CAN ENHANCE THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF EACH OF THE METHODS USED FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES.
In this perspective, forensic anthropology offers an important support in the study of skeletal remains allowing the determination of biological characteristics such as sex, age, stature and ancestry from the skeleton. Forensic anthropology could also be fundamental to the identification process especially in cases of badly preserved or heavily fragmented human skeletal remains.
Forensic radiology, on the other hand, can be used for lesion identification, reconstructive identification and comparative bone and dental identification. In particular, comparison between ante-mortem and post-mortem radiographs or PMCT (post-mortem computed tomography) images can be fundamental for positive identification of human remains. Indeed, conventional radiology and CT allow morphological skeletal information to be obtained from high quality image reconstructions in any plane and 3D modelling of images, such that bones and teeth can be viewed and measured in any plane without invasive procedures, offering considerable practical benefits.
Odontological data and dental radiology are useful tools for age estimation and identification of skeletal remains even when ante-mortem dental data are not available. Skeletonised or decomposed human remains can be clinically and radiographically examined for dental features and dental information to substantiate the identification.
For all these reasons and especially considering the impact of the phenomenon at the national level, the integration of the methods currently in use with other techniques that can be used for identification purposes can prove extremely important in this context. For example, it is useful to classify the different population subgroups by analysing the major skeletal differences of the skull to make the identification process of the nameless human remains quicker and more effective. The proposed experimental approaches can be seen as complementary elements in a single working method able to provide reliable results for identification of unidentified human skeletal remains.
IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, THE MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH PROPOSED IN THIS PROJECT PRESENTS NUMEROUS POTENTIAL APPLICATIONS AND A SIGNIFICANT SOCIO-ECONOMIC IMPACT.