Background Many adults from refugee source countries do not have documents of
birth, either because they have been lost in flight, or because the civil
infrastructure is too fragile to support routine recording of birth. In Western
countries, date of birth is used as a basic identifier, and access to services
and support tends to be age regulated. Doctors are not infrequently
asked to write formal reports estimating the true age of adult refugees;
however, there are no existing guidelines to assist in this task.
Objective To provide an overview of methods to estimate age in living adults, and
outline recommendations for best practice.
Discussion Age should be estimated through physical examination; life history,
matching local or national events with personal milestones; and existing
nonformal documents. Accuracy of age estimation should be subject to
three tests: biological plausibility, historical plausibility, and corroboration
from reputable sources.
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