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Wife shocked to learn husband’s cadaver dissected at pay-per-view event

A Louisiana senior is shocked after her late husband's remains were used at a public autopsy in a hotel ballroom. File/Getty Images

Elsie Saunders doesn’t know where her late husband’s body is.

What’s worse is that the Louisiana senior isn’t even sure what even remains of her husband, after his cadaver was used for a public autopsy that she wasn’t informed of.

Saunders, 92, thought her husband’s remains were being donated to science after he died of COVID-19 complications in August. Instead she learned, after the fact, that his body underwent a public autopsy in an Oregon hotel ballroom, and that tickets were sold to see the body dissected.

“I didn’t know he was going to be … put on display like a performing bear or something,” Saunders told NBC News of her husband, David, a Second World War army veteran who died at the age of 98.

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The autopsy’s 70 spectators paid between $100 and $500 to watch the show, which was put on by the company Death Science as part of the travelling Oddities and Curiosities Expo.

Saunders learned about her late husband’s participation in the autopsy after a photojournalist from a Seattle news station attended the class.

Saunders said her husband had agreed to donate his body to Louisiana State University for medical research, but because he died of COVID-19, the school wouldn’t take it.

So, she says, his body ended up at Las Vegas-based Med Ed Labs – an organization that asks for body donations for research – which then turned around and sold the body to the autopsy event.

Death Science offers live cadaver dissection courses, as well as a variety of e-learning courses examining the science of death using graphic and realistic techniques.

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“In this workshop, we will be observing a forensic autopsy on a full human cadaver. Death Science’s medical professionals will be guiding us through a formal autopsy,” reads a description of the event on the Death Science website.

“From the external body exam to the removal of vital organs, including the brain, we will find new perspectives on how the human body can tell a story. There will be several opportunities for attendees to get an up-close and personal look at the cadaver.”

Shortly after the event took place, Death Science sent an email to the members of the paying audience, urging them to get tested for COVID-19.

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Obteen Nassiri, a spokesperson for Med Ed Labs, has since offered an apology to Saunders, saying they were unaware of Death Science’s plan for the body, and acknowledged they should have been more diligent.

“We do not engage the donors’ bodies in any kind of shows that it was involved with,” Nassiri said.

Despite the apology, Saunders says she’s still reeling from the events.

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“As far as I’m concerned, it’s horrible, unethical, and I just don’t have the words to describe it,” she told The Advocate. “I have all this paperwork that says his body would be used for science — nothing about this commercialization of his death.”

A local funeral home has offered to track down Saunders’ husband’s remains and cremate them, free of charge.

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