Bones are defined to be rigid organs that constitute part of endoskeleton of vertebrates. Bones are important medico-legally in various aspects. Before bones are to be used for any medico-legal examination, there are certain things to take care of. Many a times, the bones are fragmented, burnt, mixed with wood, or decolorized to such extents that a direct examination of the bone without establishing the following facts would result in wrong interpretation.
1. Whether the specimens are bone or not. This may be identified by physical examination, chemical examination, microscopy of a section, etc.
2. Whether the bones are human in origin or not. Many a times, bones are recovered in such degraded states that even experts of osteology find it difficult to confirm the human origin with mere physical examination. A chemical test such as precipitin test would come handy in such cases. Bones of great apes are not very different from that of humans and it becomes virtually indistinguishable in the case of the distal carpels, meta-carpels, tarsals or meta-tarsals.
3. Whether the bones are from a single individual or not. This is achieved by making a skeleton chart of the available bones. Any disproportion in size or count would point in the direction of multi individual origin. This becomes important in bones that are obtained while digging unknown areas as it might even be an old graveyard!
Once these characteristics of the available bones are established, the bones may be considered for further forensic analysis. Bones are helpful in forensic medicine in establishing the following facts.
Bones are extremely useful in establishing the identity of the individual of origin. Bones help in this regard because they may be used to establish the following characteristics of the individual of origin:
1. Race: This had been observed that there are differences in the anatomy of different races at the skeletal level. For example, the Negro populations of Africa tend to have long femurs compared to the rest of the word. This would mean that a skeleton with an abnormally long femur should remind us to think in that direction as well.
2. Gender: There exist anatomical, physiological and mental differences between the male and the female. It is safe to assume that these differences reflect in the bones as well. The most important of it is the pelvic bone or the hip bone. In females, this should be adapted to serve the additional function of child bearing and delivery as well. Forensic experts claim that they can state, with 95% certainty, the gender of the person if the hip bone is provided, and with 98% certainty, if the hip bone and skull are provided.
3. Age at Death: In children, bones serve the additional function of providing a scope for growth. These centers, also called growth centers, close down, or ossify once a specific age is achieved. This age is different for different bones. If there is a full set of skeleton, there opens an...