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Forensic comes from the Latin word forensis meaning 'before the forum'. It refers to the use of broad spectrum fields of science, to investigate and present factual information for legal or criminal action. Forensic science, often shortened to forensics, deals with evaluation of evidence and facts in a case.
Forensics is about finding out the truth that is supported by concrete facts and evidence. Forensic scientists don't favor sides, but rather 'listen to the evidence'. Forensics has been used for centuries tracing back to 44BC, where after Julius Caesar had been killed, the physician who attended to him said that of the 23 wound that were inflicted, only one was fatal (Nitin 5-16).
Medical experts were first formally consulted, to determine cause of death by German and Slavic societies. The first textbook on forensic science was published in 1247 in China. Books have been published containing procedures on how to perform forensic autopsies and determine causes of death. Forensics today encompasses a variety of practices like: facial reconstruction using clay and computer software, DNA fingerprinting, toxicology, forensic autopsies and, forensic anthropology( Abbas and Rutty 201).
In 1887, pathologists were an integral part of investigation of violent and unnatural deaths. This was ensured in the coroner's act. New technology and the era of computers bring about advanced and faster methods of forensic science. Not only does DNA fingerprinting help in crime fighting, but also in the identification of dead bodies. This is especially useful, when it comes to mass murders, mass disasters and war situations. Fingerprint technology has been a major part of human identification. As long as there is a print in the system, then someone can be identified. Computer databases contain this information and, matching of fingerprints takes a shorter time with precise results.
Military personnel have databases with their information in them. Forensic scientists have a place to verify their findings. Increases in casualties of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, highlight the important role that forensic science plays in identifying victims.
Forensic analysis of DNA gives 100% assurance of accurate identification. Dental records are useful too. There are several key players in the identification of combat victims. Medical examiners perform autopsies to determine cause of death (Adcock 599-605). Fingerprint specialists identify the owners of the prints collected. These prints are searched in an automated fingerprint system (AFIS) to verify identity.
This is used by: Experts in search and recovery of physical evidence, forensic DNA analysts to help in identification, forensic anthropologists to help in bone identification and forensic pathologists to help with the autopsies.
When in a war, soldiers get separated and scattered. Incase of fatalities, identification is necessary. Wars and death affect everyone, not just the soldiers. It is important for family members to get closure after losing a loved one. DNA from the victim is matched to the family. Dental records contain names and addresses of next of kin. They are then informed after a loved one has been found.
In cases where the victim is nearly unrecognizable, forensic anthropology is applied. The bones are studied then the skull is fitted with markers. The markers help in facial reconstruction. Once there's a face, it is easier to identify the person and inform his family about his death. Databases that are centralized are used to search evidence. Electronic uploads are done to avoid errors in transcription which may lead to misidentification. Testing of DNA is done in labs with qualified workers, and a streak of successful results. This gives credibility to the results which the families have a right to.
Forensic anthropology can be used to identify the cause of death. If the body is decomposed too much, the bones are left to tell the story of what happened. Scaring and marks on the bones are studied for this purpose. People often want to know how a loved one died. This gives them closure too. By use of forensics, this can be determined. Autopsies and toxicology reports provide information needed by the family members.
In cases where fingerprints and dental record are unavailable, DNA fingerprinting is used to identify soldiers, who are then returned to their families. Most wars are chaotic and messy, making identification harder. Some bodies take time before the bodies are discovered. Decomposition might hamper efforts of identification (Clayton, Whitaker and Maguire 7-15).
Forensic science helps when it comes to comparing DNA, in order to identify soldiers. Families will see that efforts are being made and will therefore, be cooperative when ante-mortem reference samples need to be collected. The samples help to identify the exact families that they belong to.
Forensics is supported by factual information and evidence that presents itself as it is. The families are in a fragile emotional state and they should be told about the activities going on. They are informed about the processes and activities behind identification efforts.
The forensics department informs the families of the privacy issues associated with the giving of DNA samples. In cases where more than one family member is involved, DNA evidence is combined with anthropological and circumstantial information that proves identification beyond doubt. The families know what they are getting into. Those who wish to abstain from giving samples make a choice about whether they wish to do so or not.
The forensics team is armed with information that they give to the families of the lost soldiers. Questions are bound to come up when dealing with the families. Forensic science plays an important role in gathering relevant effective information that tells the story of the dead body.
The forensic team should learn about the processes of the society that the soldiers died in. This helps them know how to best go about collecting evidence. They should know about the organization and management of war situations in the society. They will know the relevant authorities to go to get permission, where and when it is needed.
They should learn about how fast and effective emergency responders in the area are. They should know about the ethical issues that may address evidence collection in the area. Evidence collection will go smoothly and there will be slim to no chance of contamination.
Forensic science is a discipline that has been around for centuries. It is a dynamic field that keeps updating and getting better. The use of forensic science to get lost soldiers to their families is a noble practice. Soldiers fight in the service of their country and, by helping get them back to their families, the government works in their service. By using fingerprinting, DNA techniques, forensic pathology, facial reconstruction, anthropology, chemical analysis, experiments and toxicology panels, forensic science does the soldiers a great service.
The soldiers will be identified, the cause of death will be determined and they will be connected to their families. Forensic science is an undisputed tool in the world of justice. It has fuelled crime investigations and led to more convictions than before. Modern technology has improved forensic science significantly, enabling fast and effective DNA testing. This discipline utilizes individual talent in law enforcement, without them having to be in the army, military or police.
Forensic science is an important discipline that should not be taken for granted. The conclusions reached after forensic investigations are accurate. Individuals are more receptive to information that has been proven and has evidence to support it.