Personal identification and ethical values


  • Francesca Zangari Free lander


Autopsy, Personal identification, Human dignity, Ethics for the dead, Respect for the dead


In the biomedical context, the dead human body is an invaluable resource for research and teaching. In many if not most countries around the world, medical and dental students learn anatomy by dissecting a human body, and questions of ethics have become a focus of attention in many of them. The autopsy is another time when medical and dental students face a dead body, in diagnosing the cause of death and in personal identification procedures. Not everyone maintains that the rights of the personality also apply to the dead, some argue that a human corpse is a thing in the legal sense. The question is if and how you can harm a dead person. Especially in mass disasters, forensic pathologists and odontologists are mostly faced with remains that barely retain the appearance of a human body. These tragic events are aggravated by the need to act quickly in search of identities and trapped in repetitive and highly technical gestures, which risk cancelling the emotional component. A dignified handling of corpses should be central in daily practice of forensic medicine and forensic staff should always have in mind the ethical dimension of human corpses in spite of their regular confrontation with the dead.