Hello, Team Members,
Welcome to 2019!
I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the important and arduous task of conducting Ante-Mortem Interviews. This interview with family members is a critical step in the process of positively identifying victims. Ante-Mortem Interviews are a series of interviews that cross over between Disaster Recovery Services (DRS) and Disaster Human Services (DHS).
In many countries, the local authorities will conduct these interviews. However, at times, Kenyon Team Members are required to collect this information. Ante-Mortem means this is information about the Person Directly Affected (PDA) preceding death. The forensic teams will collect the post mortem information, but, without the PDA’s ante-mortem information, they cannot make a positive identification, as they would not have anything to compare the forensic findings to.
Often times the family members feel that this is their opportunity to contribute to the identification process and it also helps them process the death that has occurred. The questions tend to be very personal and often difficult to answer. We may need to enquire if the PDA has a criminal history for the purpose of comparing fingerprints. This could lead a family member to not be as truthful to protect the reputation of their loved one.
These interviews should be conducted in a private and comfortable setting. Be prepared, bringing along tissues and offering refreshments. If, at any time, the family member starts to show signs of distress take a break and resume only after he or she has regained composure. If necessary, reach out to a Mental Health Team Member for assistance. As the interviewer, it is critical that the information you gather is accurate and complete. Take notes and always double-check your work for accuracy. Do not ever make assumptions or omit information even if you think it will protect the deceased. Choose your words carefully as words like “body parts” or “fragmentation” can be very upsetting to a family member.
It is up to the interviewer to earn trust and demonstrate empathy and understanding. It is helpful to understand the family dynamics and always respect cultures and religions. We must reassure them this painful discussion is critical to make positive identifications. Without a positive identification, a Death Certificate cannot be issued, nor can the remains be returned to their loved ones for proper burial. It is up to us to help the families understand that the identification process is lengthy and can be frustrating. But their involvement will greatly assist the positive identification of their loved one and ensure they are laid to rest based on their wishes.
As always, thank you for being a Kenyon Team Member.
Team Member Manager