Body of WWII Vet Used in Live Pay-Per-View Autopsy Returning Home

By Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.
December 22, 2021 Updated: December 22, 2021

The body of a WWII veteran used in a live pay-per-view autopsy in Portland, Oregon, has been shipped home to Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

David Saunders, who was 98 when he died of COVID-19 on Aug. 24, 2021, donated his body to science—only to have it dissected in front of a live audience in a ballroom at the Marriott Hotel, reportedly without his family’s knowledge or consent. 

“When a family chooses to donate a loved one’s body for education or research, they do so with the hope that they will help others,” according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) on its website. 

“Regrettably, many, like the Saunders family, are unknowingly contributing to a for-profit industry in which the body of their loved one could be traded as raw material in a largely unregulated national market.” 

Med Ed Labs in Las Vegas received Saunders’s donated body, which was later sold for $10,000 to Death Science, the NFDA reports.

Death Science, on its website, says it works with experts to “create hyperrealistic death science courses to educate in a unique and captivating way.”

The organization billed the live autopsy in Portland as a “Cadaver Dissection Class” on Oct. 17, 2021, as part of an “Oddities and Curiosities Expo” tour.

“The event was open to all members of the public, and was not reserved solely for scientists with a professional interest in autopsies,” the NFDA reports.

“It’s unimaginable that something like this can happen, but it’s likely what transpired was legal.”

In a public statement sent to The Epoch Times, Med Ed Labs said it had no idea Saunders was to be part of a traveling live autopsy show.

“Prior to the Oct. 17, 2021 event, Death Science deceived us repeatedly stating the donor they requested would be utilized solely for education anatomical dissection instructing academic students, paramedics, and personnel within forensic pathology fields,” the statement read. 

“We had absolutely no prior knowledge that any donor provided by our network of surgical facilities would be used as part of the ‘Oddities Expo’ and explicitly no knowledge that people would be paying to attend a show featuring one of our donors.”

The Medical Examiners Office in Multnomah County, Oregon, reportedly got wind of the event and conducted an investigation, which found Death Science “to be fraudulently representing itself” as an accredited collegiate training program qualified in forensic pathology, Med Ed Labs said in the statement.

“We were beside ourselves as we have an inherent respect for individuals both living and deceased and commit ourselves to compassionate care with the highest ethical standards,” the statement added. 

Kimberly DiLeo, the county’s chief medical death investigator, did not respond to a request for comment.

Marriott did not return a request for comment on the public autopsy, or whether guests were at risk of contracting COVID-19.

In a media statement, Death Science CEO Jeremy Ciliberto apologized for any emotional trauma the event might have caused.

“Please consider this as my public apology to Elsie Saunders, the widow of David Saunders, and [to] their extended family.

“I sincerely regret the undue and unintentional emotional distress caused by the Death Science Oct. 17 educational event in Portland,” Ciliberto wrote, and said he will not be responding to any other questions from the media.

In the meantime, Med Ed Labs said it has “prudently and respectfully” returned Saunders’ body to a funeral home selected by the family.

The organization is also working with Portland investigators to “ensure  there is no ongoing voyeurism or misrepresentation of essential anatomical training events in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.”

The NFDA said it supports passage of the Consensual Donation and Research Integrity Act of 2021. The legislation seeks to protect the dignity of donors and their families by creating standards for handling the remains of donors, including chain of custody and proper disposition.

The act is currently pending before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Allan Stein
Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.