Body of WWII Veteran Dissected In Pay-Per-View Autopsy Without Family’s Knowledge

Photo Credit: 1. Keystone / Getty Images 2. KGW News / YouTube 3. @deathscience / TikTok
Photo Credit: 1. Keystone / Getty Images 2. KGW News / YouTube 3. @deathscience / TikTok

The body of World War II veteran David Saunders was autopsied in front of a paying audience in Portland, Oregon, without his family being notified prior to the procedure taking place. The incident has sparked outrage from both his loved ones and many within the veteran community.

David Saunders wearing a suit
WWII veteran David Saunders. (Photo Credit: KGW News / YouTube)

98-year-old Saunders died in August 2021 of COVID-19 complications. As per his wishes, his body was given to Med Ed Labs, a for-profit company, for scientific research. Med Ed Labs then sold the remains to TikTok user and Death Science founder Jeremy Ciliberto, who is known for sharing videos of fake corpses and crimes scenes with his 1.1 million followers.

Ciliberto organized a live autopsy of Mr. Saunders’ body at the Oddities and Curiosities Expo at the Marriott Ballroom in Portland on October 17, 2021. For a fee of $500, spectators could watch the dissection online or in-person.

During the three-hour procedure, retired professor of anatomy Colin Henderson used a surgical knife to cut into the body and remove Mr. Saunders’ organs and brain. He also invited audience members to prod the remains.

Elsie Saunders only learned of her late husband’s fate after Seattle news channel King5 sent an undercover reporter to the event and noticed Mr. Saunders’ name written on the cadaver’s tag.

“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,” said Mike Clark, the funeral home director in Louisiana who prepared Saunders’ body before it was given to Med Ed Labs.

The USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee on fire during the Attack of Pearl Harbor
The USS West Virginia and the USS Tennessee on fire during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Photo Credit: USN / Wikimedia Commons)

David Saunders joined the Merchant Marines after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He enlisted in the US Army in 1944 and was posted in the Pacific Theater, where he was injured fighting the Japanese in the Philippines.

He also served during the Korean War.

Medical personnel standing over David Saunders' body, which is blurred
Video still from the undercover investigation conducted by King5. (Photo Credit: King5 / YouTube)

Speaking with The Independent, Obteen Nassiri, an administrator with Med Ed Labs, denied knowing the body would be autopsied at a public event. “We had no idea that they would use it at an oddities expo for a paying audience,” he said. “We apologised. We’re very sorry for what’s come of this. We’re fully going to return the remains to [Elsie] as soon as possible. At our expense.”

In response, Ciliberto claimed Med Ed Labs were aware that Mr. Saunders’ body would be used in the live autopsy, and that his company made it clear it would be selling tickets. He paid over $10,000 for the remains, but didn’t have access to paperwork from Med Ed Labs.

“We understand that this event has caused undue stress for the family and we apologise for that,” he added.

Jeremy Ciliberto pointing at four picture frames
Jeremy Ciliberto. (Photo Credit: @deathscience / TikTok)

A spokesperson for the Oddities and Curiosities Expo said, “This was absolutely NOT an entertainment style demonstration. It was an educational event geared toward students, professionals and those interested in a career in this field.”

Future public autopsies at the expo have been canceled.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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