Guidelines for Mass Fatality (MF) DNA Identification Operations are now available on the AABB (formally known as the American Association of Blood Banks) web site, www.aabb.org. The MF Guidelines are a product of the Relationship Testing Standards Committee of the AABB.

We live in an age of increasing population densities, political tensions, and the corresponding threat of natural and other disasters. The success rate in identifying individuals involved in a mass fatality can be significantly improved by the approach and procedures instituted following the event. Seven experts in the field of DNA identification have developed a set of guidelines to best approach such disasters.

These Mass Fatality Guidelines are the result of the work of scientists with practical experience in mass fatality operations in both the public and private sector, including: Dr. Amanda Sozer, SNA International; Dr. Michael Baird, DDC; Michelle Beckwith, PTC; Dr. Brian Harmon, Cal DOJ; Demris Lee, AFDIL, Dr. George Riley, AABB; and Stefan Schmitt, Physicians for Human Rights.

“The goal of this effort was to present a comprehensive overview of the many different complex factors involved in a mass fatality DNA identification operational response,” stated Dr. Amanda Sozer, who led the working group and has worked on a number of DNA identification efforts including 9/11 and Katrina. “This is the first attempt to bring all of these complex issues together in a comprehensive document to provide guidance to those involved in such a situation.”

Ultimately, the steps taken in the response to a mass fatality can affect the results. The group looked at prior events using a 360-degree view to put forth the most comprehensive approach to date to utilize DNA technology to identify those involved.

The guidelines are intended to support mass fatality DNA identification operations by providing direction to the development of efficient and effective operations to organizations and laboratories and address the unique and complex logistical issues commonly encountered.

“These guidelines are available to anyone interested in this issue and provide information on program management, technical issues, and special considerations. The use of DNA for human identification and the establishment of relationship has become routine and these MF Guidelines combine the unique disciplines required for a successful conclusion of the identification of fatalities,” said Dr. Michael Baird, Chair of the Relationship Testing Standards Committee of the AABB. The goal of the working group that drafted the MF Guidelines is for them to be disseminated and incorporated world wide as a frame work for organizing and the testing of samples.

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