WWII veteran’s body dissected in front of live audience at $500-a-ticket event

The body of a 98-year-old WWII veteran was dissected in front of a live audience at a $500-a-ticket event.

  • WWII veteran’s body was publicly dissected at a $500-a-ticket event without the knowledge of his family. 
  • David Saunders, who served as a U.S. Merchant Marine during WWII, donated his body for medical research. 
  • Without Mr. Saunders’ or his family’s consent, his remains were used as entertainment during the Oddities and Curiosities Expo.
  • VIP visitors paid $500 for a front-row view of the autopsy.
  • Ms. Saunders, 92, is considering legal action against Death Science and Med Ed Labs, responsible for her late husband’s public dissection. 
Credits: The National WWII Museum

David Saunders, of Baton Rouge in Louisiana, who died earlier this year at the age of 98, donated his body to medical science. However, neither he nor his family knew he would be publicly dissected.

On October 17, Mr. Saunders’ body was slit open in front of a live audience in a Portland Marriott hotel ballroom. The scene was part of the $500-a-ticket event “Oddities and Curiosities,” as reported by Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, Mr. Saunders’ wife, Elsie, had no idea her late husband’s body was an attraction at a public autopsy. The 92-year-old widow is now considering legal action over the atrocious incident.

David Saunders served as a U.S. Merchant Marine on the SS Mayo Brothers liberty ship during World War Two.

The veteran’s body was donated to the for-profit firm Med Ed Labs in Las Vegas. However, they sold the remains to Jeremy Ciliberto, founder of Death Science.

The Oddities and Curiosities Expo, where Mr. Saunders’ dissection was held, is a place where visitors can find “all things weird,” including “skulls/bones, funeral collectibles & much more.” According to the event’s description, All items you see at our shows are legal to own and sustainably sourced.”

Undercover KING 5 journalist recorded the grim scene, in which Mr. Saunders’ body was slit open before the eyes of an audience. The VIP customers paid $500 per ticket to be in the front row, inches away from the corpse.

Credits: KING 5

The specialist who performed the autopsy was Dr. Colin Henderson, a retired professor of anatomy who taught at the University of Montana in Missoula. 

Neama Rahmani, a Los Angeles-based personal injury cases lawyer, said that Ms. Saunders could potentially take legal actions against Death Science and Med Ed Labs. He explained:

“It all comes down to consent. If Saunders’ widow consented to the pay-per-view autopsy, she has no claim.

But assuming she did not and was told the body would be used for medical research, she has both breaches of contract claims against Med Ed Labs and tort claims against both Med Ed Labs and Death Science.”

Credits: KING 5

The attorney continued:

“The agreement governing the body is critical to determining whether there was breach, negligent misrepresentation, or outright fraud. Once liability is established, the question is what are appropriate damages?

The emotional distress of seeing a loved one cut open in public is extreme, and would likely support a significant damage award, not to mention the disgorgement of ill-gotten profits from the event.”

Ms. Saunders said she was “horrified” that her late husband was “treated like a piece of meat in front of a paying audience.”

The 92-year-old widow had no clue her husband’s remains would be used for entertainment.

Mr. Saunders’ body was originally donated to contribute to “medical and surgical education and training for the advancement of medical and surgical innovation.” 

Mike Clark, the funeral director in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who handled the veteran’s corpse for Church Funeral Services and Crematory, commented:

“Our whole staff was horrified that this is what had happened to a gentleman that he and his family thought that his body was going for the advancement of medical students.”

Greg Clark, one of the owners of the funeral home, added:

“We are extremely saddened for Mr. Saunders’ widow.” 

The founder of Death Science confirmed he paid Med Ed Labs about $10,000 for each cadaver. 

Pictured: Jeremy Ciliberto | Credits: KING 5

Ciliberto, who confirmed Med Ed Labs was aware of his plans for Mr. Saunders’ body, told Mail Online:

“Death Science partnered with Med Ed Labs and was in direct contact with Med Lab Ed, specifically, Obteen Nassiri, for multiple months leading up to the course including, but not limited to, the fact that the attendees are not exclusively medical students and ticket sales.”

Furthermore, Ciliberto revealed that Med Ed Labs also provided the anatomist who performed the autopsy, Dr. Colin Henderson, and booked the hotel venue for the cadaver class. He added:

“[Med Ed Labs] was responsible for the handling of the cadaver before, during, and after the event.”

Contrarily, a Med Ed Labs supervisor claimed they didn’t know the body would be used for a live event.

Kimberly DiLeo, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner, said:

“Their supervisor was unaware of the deceased being used for this event.”

Credits: KING 5

A Med Ed Labs spokesman, who claimed Ciliberto had been “dishonest,” added:

“We feel that this was not respectful and certainly not ethical.” 

Visitors of the event said it was “very respectful” and “very educational.”

Additionally, one Portland resident commented:

“They’re not doing anything that I would, if it was my own family member, be upset about.”

Despite Med Ed Labs’ accusations, Death Science’s founder insisted:

Any concerns about the cadaver have always been addressed by the lab. Again I am not the lab, I am the host. I can guarantee that that man knew his body would be used for medical research.”

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