Death is a difficult subject. Most of the time, it involves someone losing someone important to them. In most cases, multiple people are left grieving that loss. This is why honoring the deceased person’s wishes post-death is so important. For the Saunders family, this meant donating their beloved grandfather’s body to science. He ended up, however, on an Oddities display in a hotel being dissected at a public event. (1)
Family Finds Grandfather’s Body Being Dissected At An Oddities Event
David Saunders was not just a 97-year-old World War II veteran. He was a father, grandfather, brother, and friend. When he passed, the family respected the man’s wishes of donating his body to science. The goal was that thanks to their grandfather’s final contribution – his body – scientists would be one step closer to understanding the human body and maybe even curing a disease. Instead, however, Saunders ended up on display at an Oddities event in the Oregon Marriott Hotel. (2)
At this event, a retired college anatomy professor performed a live dissection on Saunders’ body in front of a paying crowd. People in the audience paid up to $500 US to watch the professor open up the man’s chest and remove several major organs, including the brain. The family found out thanks to an undercover journalist from Seattle News Outlet KING5. He had attended the event, which took place last month and spotted the man’s name on the tag hanging from his body.
DeathScience.org, founded by Jeremy Ciliberto, hosted the event as a part of their Oddities and Curiosities Expo. There were more shows like this scheduled in other cities on the west coast, however, the host hotels canceled after public scrutiny questioned how ethical these shows are.
“We feel that this was not respectful and certainly not ethical,” said Kimberly DiLeo, the chief medical death investigator for the Multnomah County, Oregon Medical Examiner.
A False Truth
The event attendees did not see anything wrong with the show. They said it was done in a very respectful manner and that the event was very educational. What they don’t realize is that the family of that person did not choose this path for their loved one. This is where the problem lies.
The bodies from this show, including that of Saunders, came from Med Ed Labs. This is a Las Vegas-based company that accepts donations of human bodies for medical and surgical research, education, and training. When the body has served its purpose, Med Ed Labs cremates the body and gives it back to the family free of charge. This mitigates funeral and burial or cremation costs.
Read: Forget Coffins or Boxes: This Company Swirls You Into Unique Glass Art Creations When You Die
An Expensive Cadaver
The family thought that their grandfather’s body was to be in a lab helping scientists cure important diseases and make discoveries about the body. They did not know or consent to, their loved one’s body being on public display in such a format. While they donated the body, Med Ed Labs made a sizable amount of profit from it. Ciliberto says that he paid more than $10,000 for each cadaver. Med Ed Labs claims that they did not know Ciliberto’s intentions with each cadaver.
“Their supervisor was unaware of the deceased being used for this event,” DiLeo said.
This means the lab, and the family who supplied the body did not know that a company would use the body for a for-profit, public event. Ciliberto claims otherwise, and also says that consent is not his job, but the lab’s. He says that the lab did know and that it was their job to get consent from the donating families. +
If you donate a body directly to a university, you can be assured that the school will use the body for proper research and education. Private, for-profit companies that buy and sell cadavers, however, are a different story. If you are wishing to have your body or that of a loved one used for this purpose, it is best to do thorough research of where it is going. Your best option is to donate it to a university or hospital lab.
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