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November 17, 1978

Roentgenographic Identification of Human Remains

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pathology (Dr Atkins) and Radiology (Dr Potsaid), Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and the Office of Medical Examiner, Northern Division, Suffolk County, Massachusetts (Dr Atkins).

JAMA. 1978;240(21):2307-2308. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03290210089041

BONE roentgenograms as a means of identifying human remains can be of great value to medical examiners. This is especially true when there is need to identify an unknown decomposed body of an adult without fingerprints. Teeth, as landmarks, may be of help, but they may be absent (as in the case presented) or antemortem dental records may not be available for comparison. Since bone roentgenograms are common diagnostic examinations, an antemortem study may be available for comparison. The following case illustrates this point, and in the Comment legal points are made about using this kind of evidence.

Report of a Case  On July 6, 1977, a human skull with a missing mandible was found on the shore of Deer Island in Boston Harbor. Only one upper molar tooth was present, and the remaining tooth sockets were empty. One month later skeletal remains consisting of a torso and limbs with