Responsibility for confirming a decedent's identity commonly falls on the shoulders of the coroner or medical examiner. Misidentification of bodies results in emotional turmoil for the next-of-kin and can negatively impact the coroner's or medical examiner's career. To avoid such mishaps, the use of scientific methods to establish a positive identification is advocated. The use of scientific methods of identification may not be reliable in cases where the decedent had assumed the identity of another person. Case studies of erroneously identified bodies due to identity theft from the state medical examiner offices in Iowa and New Mexico are presented. This article discusses the scope and major concepts of identity theft and how identity theft prevents the guarantee of a positive identification.
From the *Department of Pathology-Autopsy Service, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC; †Iowa Office of the State Medical Examiner, Ankeny, IA; and ‡Central Office Investigators, Office of the Medical Investigator, Albuquerque, NM.
Manuscript received July 27, 2008; accepted January 4, 2009.
Reprints: Jerri McLemore, MD, Department of Pathology-Autopsy Service, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Boulevard, Winston-Salem, NC 27157. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.