[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
March 10, 1989

Forensics Experts Tackle Task of Identifying Thousands of 'Disappeared' Victims

JAMA. 1989;261(10):1388-1389. doi:10.1001/jama.1989.03420100014003

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


THIS SPRING, a team of medical students, aspiring archeologists, and forensic pathologists will be engaged in the unpleasant task of sifting through the skeletal remains of about 220 persons buried in a mass grave in Argentina. They are among the estimated 8 000 to 20 000 persons referred to as the "disappeared," victims of a wave of military-led torture in that country during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The original plan, which Clyde C. Snow, PhD, now admits was "grandiose," was to "dig up all 20 000 'disappeared' and identify them." Reality intervened. In a country just emerging from a wave of terror and lacking a legacy of independent forensic work, the goal of identifying enough victims to successfully prosecute their murderers has proved daunting enough.

"The strategy now is to get one person positively identified and determine the cause of death," says Eric Stover. "We don't need to