Volume 18, Issue 4 (October 1973)
Dental Identification of Aircraft-Accident Fatalities
The identification of the dead represents a humane and moral responsibility that often comes to rest upon the shoulders of the dentist. The identification of unknown human remains is mandatory for legal certification of death, which is prerequisite to the culmination of subsequent legal events, such as the settlement of wills, awarding of insurance benefits, termination of business affairs, and remarriage of survivors. In deaths resulting from accidents, certification of death is necessary prior to the possible institution of legal action involving negligent parties. From the standpoint of the aerospace pathologist or other persons concerned with air safety and improvement of the man-machine relationship as it applies to aircraft, the identification of air-crash victims enables an assessment to be made regarding the seating location of those involved so as in turn to allow reconstruction of crash mechanics and the mechanism of injury patterns. In addition, identification of the crewmembers enables the pathologist to assess the role played by natural disease in a given accident. As an example, a question may arise as to whether the pilot suffered a fatal heart attack that resulted in the accident. The pathologist may have found a diseased heart, but is it from the pilot or whom?