SEATTLE — A Louisiana district attorney is investigating after a man was dissected in front of a live, paying audience, and his widow said she didn’t give consent.
District Attorney Hillar Moore, who’s based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was careful to say it’s not yet a criminal investigation. However, he wants to find out what happened that led David Saunders, 98, to be autopsied at a cadaver class in Portland, Oregon, as first reported by the KING 5 investigators.
“I’d like to see what potential criminal violations, if any, that they have for this or if there aren't any,” Moore said. “Is there any potential legislation to stop this from happening?”
Saunders died of COVID-19 in August and donated his body to medical science. Saunders’ body ended up at Las Vegas-based Med Ed Labs, which accepts donations of bodies for scientific and medical research. The lab sold it to event organizer Jeremy Ciliberto, founder of DeathScience.org.
The body was then autopsied Oct. 17 in a Marriott hotel ballroom as part of the Oddities and Curiosity Expo. Ticket buyers paid up to $500 to watch.
Moore said using Saunders’ body for a public spectacle may violate the contract Med Ed Labs signed with Elsie Saunders, David Saunders’ widow.
“It's called a gift, which is his body,” Moore said. “It's made for professional medical science. It's not for people to come, go around and look and just get experience, put your hands on somebody's body part for $500.”
In press release Friday, Med Ed Labs said Ciliberto “deceived us repeatedly,” stating that Saunders’ body would be dissected before “academic students, paramedics and personnel within forensic pathology fields.”
As for Saunders’ widow, she said she didn’t know where her husband ended up until we reached her earlier this week.
“He's on display,” Elsie Saunders said. “…I just don't have the words yet to describe how horrible I think it is.”
Med Ed Labs said it is shipping Saunders’ remains back to Louisiana to be reunited with his family.
Editor’s Note: After our investigation aired, the Oddities and Curiosities Expo provided an official statement, which provides in part: “Our only role was to provide a ticketing platform for Death Science, which was the proprietor of the class. The Oddities & Curiosities Expo made no profit from this demonstration. The cadaver class has never been a part of the traveling expo.” The KING 5 Investigators confirmed the Oddities and Curiosities Expo refunded ticket purchases following the canceled show and for unfilled orders for live stream tickets. Death Science was a vendor at the Portland Expo, where tickets to the cadaver class were sold. In addition, The Oddities and Curiosities Expo Facebook page promoted the cadaver class in conjunction with the Expos on October 16 in Portland and October 30 in Seattle.