42.1 DNA identification testing is increasingly used to identify human bodies and remains where the deceased cannot be identified by traditional means. This form of testing involves comparing DNA taken from the body of the deceased with DNA taken from his or her personal items (for example, a comb, hairbrush or toothbrush) or from close biological relatives. Newborn screening cards may be used in some circumstances.[1] Several forms of DNA analysis are used, involving nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.[2]

42.2 DNA testing has been used to identify the victims of aeroplane crashes, and to resolve historical questions—such as the identity of the American ‘unknown soldier’ from the Vietnam war, and the remains of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and members of his family, who were executed in 1918. More recently, it has been used to identify the victims of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on 11 September 2001; and the nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia on 12 October 2002, which killed 88 Australians.[3]

42.3 While recognising the benefits of this form of testing in identifying bodies and remains for families of the deceased, this form of DNA testing raises certain ethical and other concerns.

[1] These are also known as ‘Guthrie cards’. See Ch 19 for more detail.

[2] See Ch 39 for more detail on these forms of DNA analysis.

[3] See below for more detail.