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Report No. 271

A. Recommendations by DNA Commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics:

3.2 In an article titled as 'DNA Commission of the International Society for Forensic Genetics (ISFG) 6: recommendations regarding the role of forensic genetics for disaster victim identification (DVI)', the issue of establishing the identity of victims of a mass disaster, has been examined. Mass disasters can involve natural (e.g. earth quakes, volcano eruptions, avalanches, hurricanes, and tsunamis) or non-natural catastrophes (e.g. transportation accidents, terrorist attacks, wars, or political upheaval).

3.3 In this regard, the ISFG made certain recommendations on the role of forensic genetics in cases of DVI. In such cases the emergency response is multidisciplinary and is shared by many agencies dealing with deceased victims in matters such as body removal, victim identification and the issuance of the death certificates. This is normally the domain of municipality or a locally body. The IFSG made the following recommendations:

1. Every forensic DNA laboratory should make an effort to contact the relevant authority dealing with emergency response and establish involvement in a possible mass fatality preparedness plan. Policy decisions about sample collection, scope and final goals of the effort will affect the victims' families and the work stream and should be decided as early as possible.

2. The internal response plan needs to address turnout capacity, sample tracking, and must have names of supervisors responsible for different tasks that are updated as personnel changes.

3. Several sample types for DNA testing should be taken at the earliest possible stage of the investigation provided traceability is guaranteed. Samples must be collected from each body or recognizable body part, even if identity is already established. Proper storage must also be assured.

4. A single accurate reported missing list is of crucial importance for streamlining the DNA identification process. Any submissions of personal effects or family swabs need to be subsumed under a single case number. If multiple agencies or companies share sample collection and/or testing, the case number should remain constant.

5. Multiple direct references and samples from first-degree relatives should be collected for each missing person. Scientists with a background in genetics should be available for training or for consultations in the family liaison group.

6. DVI-DNA testing should only be performed by laboratories with demonstrated successful capabilities and continuous experience with these specified sample types.

7. The set of loci to be analysed has to be identified as soon as possible in concordance with the scientific community in the countries mostly involved. A minimum of 12 independent loci should be selected as standard set, but an even greater number of loci is preferred.

8. All allele calls and all candidate matches have to be reviewed thoroughly. Composite DNA profiles can be generated if derived from the same specimen and consistent for overlapping loci. The duplication policy should consider the logistics and circumstances of the mass fatality incident.

9. If the standard autosomal STR typing fails to give sufficient information, additional typing system such as mtDNA, Ychromosomal STRs, or SNP markers may be used in selected cases.

10. A centralized database is required for all data comparison. Electronic upload is recommended to avoid transcription errors.

11. Especially if multiple family members are involved, DNA-based identification should whenever pos-M. Prinz et al. / Forensic Science International: Genetics 1 (2007) 3-12 9sible be anchored by anthropological and/or circumstantial data, a second identification modality, or multiple DNA references.

12. In DVI work, DNA statistics are best represented as likelihood ratios that permit DNA results to be combined among multiple genetic systems or with other non-DNA evidence. Likelihood ratio thresholds should be determined for when DNA data alone can suffice for an identification; this will be based on the size and circumstances (e.g. closed versus open) of the event. All evidence and/or circumstances should be checked in making an identification, even if DNA provides the primary or sole evidentiary factor.

13. The preparedness plan of the laboratory needs to include policies for family notification, long-term sample disposition, and data archiving.

3.4 Keeping in view the possibility of future mass fatalities it is desirable and necessarily required to train forensic geneticists in DVI tasks and response planning. The skills involved in DVI are closely related to both DNA testing in criminal cases and kinship investigations. Validated procedures and the adherence to good laboratory practices will minimise false, negative results and increase the reliability of the identifications. DNA should not be considered the sole tool for identification, as many circumstances will allow for faster identification of the victims using dental records or fingerprint characteristics7 . Moreover, consistent results across multiple modalities will also improve the confidence level for each identification. An interdisciplinary approach is encouraged and modalities of it need to be worked out early amongst the DVI team members.

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