People involved in body recovery work need to cope with a psychologically difficult task. While best done by people who are experienced in this work, often the work has to be done by members of the general public. Certain approaches can help the workers handle the work better.


Findings that can be most traumatic:

(1) victims in an advanced state of decomposition or after animal scavenging.

(2) body fragments (especially decapitations)

(3) recovery of actual family members or friends

(4) recovery of victims resembling personal family members and friends, especially children.


Aspects that can be positive:

(1) recovery of a victim who is still alive


Recommendations to reduce the psychic stress (after Oster and Doyle):

(1) Try not to think of the bodies as human.

(2) Try not to look at the face of the victim (cover the face, or place the body in a body bag).

(3) Try not to learn the name or history of the victims or make an attempt to contact family members.

(4) Try not to dwell on morbid thoughts but rather concentrate on the work at hand.

(5) Try to remember that the job has to be done and that there are benefits to the families and to society. The faster that the work is done the faster it will be completed.

(6) Take advantage of any professional help offered to debrief workers.



• In the Japanese biological weapons tests during World War II Chinese victims were often referred to as "logs" as a means to dehumanize them.

• Getting drunk to cope with the task not only does not help with the problems but also increases the risk of injuries.


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