Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Medical Examiners use new technique to identify unidentified corpses at U.S. Border

Once successfully getting through the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, undocumented immigrants face a large stretch of desert terrain along with extreme and bouts with over exhaustion that usually spells doom for about 180 of the border crossers a year.

Pima County Medical Examiner Dr. Greg Hess and his office sees more mummified cases of border crosses than any other in the country, Fox News Latino reported.

Hess is tasked with examining the bodies that come in, but because the bodies have been sitting it out under the extreme heat in the desert sun, they mummify faster than normally, making the process of obtaining fingerprints virtually impossible.

"The skin loses water content and elasticity. It will mummify, which means it becomes very hard and firm and leathery," Hess said.

He also told Fox that finding official identification on the person doesn't help in the process because most of them carry false documentation.

However, a technique to rehydrate the people's hands and revert the mummification process that was developed in 2001 is now being used by Hess to identify the subjects.

"We can rehydrate mummified hands using a sodium hydroxide solution ... that return the plumpness to the skin, the elasticity of it. So that you can take fingerprints," Hess said.

Hess said he places the mummified hands in the solution and lets them soak for 72 hours, but no more than that because the tissue can dissolve if is rehydrated for too long.

The rehydration process costs less than $100 per body but Hess the price is worth it because it allows a family to have closure.

"There is a sense of satisfaction in making that identification so there can be closure for the family, regardless of whether or not it's a family in the United States or from some other country," Hess said. "We try to provide that."

Tuesday 08 April 2014



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