Medical examiner and coroner offices may face difficulties in trying to achieve identification of deceased persons who are unidentified or in locating next of kin for deceased persons who have been identified. The Fulton County medical examiner (FCME) has an office web site which includes information about unidentified decedents and cases for which next of kin are being sought.
Information about unidentified deceased and cases in need of next of kin has been posted on the FCME web site for 3 years and 1 year, respectively. FCME investigators and staff medical examiners were surveyed about the web site's usefulness for making identifications and locating next of kin.
No cases were recalled in which the web site led to making an identification. Two cases were reported in which next of kin were located, and another case involved a missing person being ruled out as one of the decedents. The web site page is visited by agencies interested in missing and unidentified persons, and employees do find it useful for follow-up because information about all unidentified decedents is located and easily accessible, electronically, in a single location.
Despite low yield in making identifications and locating next of kin, the UID web site is useful in some respects, and there is no compelling reason to discontinue its existence. It is proposed that UID pages on office web sites be divided into “hot” (less than 30 days, for example) and “warm” (31 days to 1 year, for example) cases and that cases older than a year be designated as “cold cases.” It is conceivable that all unidentified deceased cases nationally could be placed on a single web site designed for such purposes, to remain in public access until identity is established and confirmed.