Heated debate surrounds use of x-rays in human smuggling case

2020 08 13 17 16 8278 Human Body Xray 400

A radiologist in Australia has voiced deep concern over the use of x-rays to determine the age of six Indonesian boys accused of being adults in a human smuggling case, according to an article published on 3 May in The Guardian.

Radiologist Dr. James Christie said the use of an x-ray-based technique to determine the age of children was "just wrong" because of the unreliability of the technique. Australian federal police continued to use the x-ray-based technique again even though Christie testified it was bunk, according to the story.

"I was saying 'this test was never designed for this, it's not appropriate, here's all the evidence about why it's a bad idea. You cannot prove that somebody is this age by using this,'" Christie told The Guardian.

Six Indonesian boys between the ages of 13 and 17 at the time of their arrest won a major case last week, overturning their convictions as human smugglers in 2010.

The boys reportedly repeatedly told authorities they were children, yet federal police relied on the use of x-rays to interpret the boys' ages based on the maturity of their wrists. Officers compared the x-rays to a reference tool that used data on the bones of healthy, middle-class Americans, according to The Guardian.

Documents attached to the case revealed both police and senior government figures knew before the boys were jailed that there were doubts about the accuracy of the x-ray exams, according to the article.

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