Wednesday, January 4, 2012

To What Lengths Should We Go To Identify Unidentified Deceased Persons

There was an interesting AP story over at Yahoo News about the Milwaukee County, WI Medical Examiner's Office that is publishing photos of unidentified deceased persons online in an effort to identify these John (and Jane) Does.
Forensic investigator Michael Simley knows some people will find the photographs unsettling, but he said he decided to post them online for an important reason: the bodies are unidentified. All were found in Wisconsin's most populous area, Milwaukee County, and have been without names for years — decades, in some cases — and Simley said he's desperate to find answers. 
"We're not doing these people justice to let them go unidentified. These are family members, friends, people who are missed," Simley said. "Everyone deserves to be recognized as who they were in life. Being buried as a Jane or John Doe doesn't sit well with me."
The story highlights the fact that not everyone agrees with these photos being posted, even if their intentions are laudable. But there is some value to crowd sourcing this problem. In most cases nearly anything that draws attention to them is a good thing. By the time that it gets to this point, all other avenues have likely been exhausted.

What do you think, should these pictures be posted online if it helps to identify these unidentified deceased persons?


  1. I think that if even one person is sent home to family then it is worth it. While it may be a "horror" to some, those families with missing loved ones that they have no clue what happened to live an even worse horror every day and the chance that they could find peace, it is worth the risk.

  2. Matton, I agree that most families would want to know even if it meant that they had to see a disturbing photo. The not knowing what happened to their relative would be worse.


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