Issue of March 17, 2019
Mt. Province

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NBI doctors outline protocols of identification of cadavers
by Novy R. Afidchao

BONTOC, Mountain Province – At least 61 participants from various agencies and local government units attended an orientation on the management of the dead and the missing (MDM) and disaster victim identification (DVI) in Samoki last March 11.

The orientation was spearheaded by the Provincial Health Office in coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of the Interior and Local Government. The activity was funded by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Municipal health officers, nurses, dentists, PHO staff, municipal local government operations officers, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection officers, MDRRMOs, district hospitals’ personnel and staff of the PDRRMO were the target participants of the activity.

The activity aimed to orient the participants on the delineation of functions among government agencies or units for more systematic operations in the management of the dead and the missing during disasters.

NBI medico legal officers Ronald R. Bandonill and Arjay A. Jeresano discussed the disaster victim identification process and shared their experiences in the aftermath of typhoons Yolanda in Samar and Leyte, Typhoon Ompong in Ucab, Itogon and of Typhoon Rosita in Natonin.

In their lectures, the NBI medico legal officers reiterated that it is the DVI team who should be responsible for the identification process and the tagging of victims.

“The role of the search, rescue, and retrieval (SRR) team is limited only to the identification of sites – the location from which a body was recovered, and note sites based on grids or make maps. 

Bandonill said it is the DVI team that does the tagging and it is in the DVI section where identification is finalized because the primary responsibility of the DVI is the issuance of the certificate of identification.

The NBI doctors also emphasized that per protocol, families should not be allowed in the SRR command post because they may hamper in the identification process.

“The experience in Natonin should give us a lesson. There were delays in the identification process because bodies were already meddled upon,” Bandonill said.

He said since processes may entail DNA sampling, possible contamination of the bodies should at all costs be avoided; hence, washing of the dead bodies and treatment with lime and formalin should not be done prior to the DVI processing as the lime and formalin can alter the DNA of the dead.

In cases of human-induced disasters such as ambushes, the NBI said the death certificate should be issued by a doctor where the incident happened.

The localized MDM-DVI orientation was conceptualized after the onslaught of Typhoon Rosita which claimed lives and left some missing. 

“The MDM-DVI is an offshoot of what happened in Natonin. In a conversation with fellow physicians who happen to be medico legal officers of the NBI and who helped manage the Natonin mishap, some issues/concerns on the handling of the dead were raised and that according to said authorities, such have caused the delay in the processing and identification of the dead and missing,” Provincial Health Officer Nenita Lizardo said.

“We hope that our emergency responders are now better prepared to deal with casualties during disasters after this orientation,” said Lizardo.

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