Multnomah County commissioners vote unanimously to ban autopsies performed for paying audience
PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Thursday on an ordinance to regulate the public display of human remains for payment.
On Thursday, commissioners were in tears during at testimony from Elsie Saunders, the wife of David Saunders whose autopsy was performed in front of a paying audience of 70 people in downtown Portland in Oct. 2021.
Elsie said she was shocked and horrified by what happened to her husband, and hopes it doesn’t happen to another family again.
“I am deeply hurt and frustrated that I wasn’t able to save my husband from the violation of his remains. I was duped by selfish and immoral people for the sake of their personal monetary gain,” she said during the board meeting.
David was a World War II veteran who died last year from COVID-19. He donated his body to medical research, which was then used for a public autopsy.
The event was put on by a company called Death Science and was billed as a “Cadaver Lab Class.” Multnomah County Chief Medical Examiner Kimberly Dileo said the company “had no credentials.”
Dileo said Death Science purchased the body from Med Ed Labs, who she said had no idea the body would be used for public display.
During Thursday’s meeting, Dileo describes what she saw in videos of the event.
“Which included members of the public without proper PPE participating in autopsy of the deceased. Also on this video - an arm band was located on the wrist, which identified deceased as David Saunders,” she said.
Dileo said she reached out to the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon Medical Board to stop the event before it happened, but neither felt they had the legal authority to do so.
Now, she and other local leaders are taking action to make sure what happened to the body of David Saunders doesn’t happen again.
“No family should bare the horror or guilt associated with learning their loved one was placed on display for paying members of the public to autopsy and touch their organs in a hotel bathroom,” Dileo said.
Horror and guilt are what Elsie said she will live with until she dies, because of what happened to her husband’s body.
“Adding to my grief for his loss is the vision in my mind of his naked, defenseless body being dismembered like a butcher preparing an animal carcass for sale,” she said.
The board heard Elsie’s pain and voted unanimously on the ordinance which will regulate the public display of human remains for payment.
The district attorney in Baton Rouge, Louisiana also spoke at the board meeting. He said he hopes other communities adopt this call for change to protect the bodies of the dead.
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