The men and women who fought for the nation at times of war and other conflicts deserve not only the admiration but also the respect from the people at that time that they decided to join and risk their lives for the people, up to the time when the left this world. Tributes and memorials were usually given to them as a way of thanking their service. When World War II veteran David Saunders died, his family was appalled to know that his remains were used in a pay-per-view dissection event.

War Veteran

David Saunders was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in December 1922. According to National WWII Museum, his father worked as a tugboat captain on the Mississippi River. Saunders had a wonderful childhood in his place of birth as he grew up with his large extended family. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, he and six other guys were dove hunting, and one of the guys’ wives called crying and told them that the Japanese had attacked. Saunders’ first words upon hearing the news were, as he recalled, “There goes my membership to the dove hunting club,” knowing that he would be sent to war.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. A small boat rescues a seaman from the 31,800-ton USS West Virginia burning in the foreground. (Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Later on, he came across his friend who should have been in the military, and he told him that the Merchant Marines had an opportunity for higher pay. Wanting to help his mother, who was struggling at that time, he thought of joining the Merchant Marines instead. Soon, he reported to the Orange Street Wharf in New Orleans, and on February 1, 1943, he boarded the ship SS May Brothers. In 1944, he was posted in the Pacific Theater, where he fought and got injured by the Japanese troops in the Philippines. After World War II, he also became part of the Korean War, braving his way yet again, this time to help fight communism.

Final Act of Patriotism

Saunders survived the wars and was respected and admired in his community for his contributions at times of war. The atrocities, however, did not happen until he died in August 2021. He was one of the more than a million people who died in the US from the complications of COVID-19. He was 98 when he passed. Before he died, he wished for his body to be donated for scientific research as an act of patriotism. And so, when he died, his remains were given to Med Ed Labs, a for-profit company in Las Vegas that works with medical device companies for surgical and medical research, education, and training.

David Saunders, screencap from king5.com

Saunders’ body ended up in an expo organized by DeathScience.org at the Portland Marriot Downtown Waterfront. Jeremy Ciliberto, the founder of DeathScience.org, sold tickets for up to $500 to the public for an in-person viewing of the autopsy and dissection of a real human body on October 17, 2021, as a sideshow event for the Oddities and Curiosities Expo. The expo, however, released a statement later on distancing itself from the event,

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.

According to Elise Saunders, she only found out about what happened to her late husband’s remains after Seattle’s news channel King5 sent an undercover reporter to the expo and saw that Mr. Saunder’s name was written on the cadaver’s tag. A video taken inside the conference room by the reporter showed about two dozens of people watching Mr. Saunders’ dissection, as reported by WWL. Mrs. Saunders said,

I was duped by selfish and immoral people for the sake of their personal monetary gain… Adding to my grief for his loss is the vision in my mind of his naked and defenseless body being dismembered like a butcher preparing an animal carcass for sale.

Mike Clark, the funeral director in Louisiana who prepared the WWII veteran’s body before it was given to Med Ed Labs, also expressed his feelings toward what happened,

It makes me really feel saddened that this gentlemen was not given the dignity and the respect that he deserved and what he thought and his family thought that would be happening to his body.

“…that man knew his body would be used for medical research.”

After the controversy, Ciliberto sent an email to KING5 News saying that the “team members have decided to cancel the event in your area,” pertaining to the supposed scheduled autopsy and dissection event to take place in a Marriot hotel conference room in Seattle, and the second in a series of pay-per-view autopsies.

Those who organized and attended the event saw the dissection as something else. One of the attendees, Monica, said, “It was very educational. It was very respectful to the person that donated their body.”

On the other hand, Ciliberto insisted that the donor and his family gave consent to what they did, saying, “I can guarantee that that man knew his body would be used for medical research.”

Med Ed Labs claimed that Ciliberto was “beyond” dishonest and said he would use the body for a medical class.

The other issue, apart from the disrespect of Mr. Saunders’ body, was that he died of COVID-19 according to his death certificate, which means his potentially infectious remains were dissected in front of many people who were invited to examine and touch them.

Multnomah County commissioners decided to ban pay-per-view displays of human remains after the controversy.

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