County Acts After Public Dissection of WWII Veteran

Teary officials in Multnomah County, Ore., move to ban for-profit display of human remains
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 15, 2022 2:36 PM CDT

The widow of a World War II and Korean War veteran who thought she was donating his body to science was aghast to learn that it was instead dissected in front of a paying audience at a Portland hotel last October. Now, as the Oregonian reports, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners has unanimously voted to ban the for-profit display of human remains in response to the exhibition, which Portland police concluded was not a crime. Pending a final vote of approval on April 21, the county ordinance would require offenders to surrender any profits and pay a $1,000 fine per violation per day, county attorney Rob Sinnott tells the outlet.

Kimberly DiLeo, the county's chief medicolegal death investigator, was a key figure behind the ordinance. She'd asked Portland police and the Oregon Medical Board to intervene in the Oct. 17 dissection, though both claimed a lack of authority. Afterward, the general manager of the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront said staff had been "grossly misled" about the cadaver lab hosted by Death Science, which DiLeo described as a media company lacking professional credentials. Guests reportedly paid up to $500 to stand over the body of 98-year-old David Saunders, who'd died of COVID-19, and touch his organs. His widow, a "deeply hurt" Elsie Saunders, only learned of the dissection from KING 5's footage, per KGW.

"The vision in my mind of his naked and defenseless body being dismembered like a butcher preparing an animal carcass for sale … I have to live with it until I die," she testified Thursday to county officials, who were left in tears, per KING 5 and the Oregonian. "I can only hope and pray that another family never goes through this nightmare." Elsie Saunders had donated the body to Med Ed Labs, a Las Vegas-based company that said it believed it would be used for research. "A company took advantage of our donors and our services to further their economic goals," a rep said, adding the company is now screening clients more carefully. Officials hope to introduce a similar ordinance in Baton Rouge, La., where Elsie Saunders lives. (More dissection stories.)

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