Live Autopsy of COVID Victim Allegedly Took Place Without Family's Consent

The family of an elderly man who died of COVID-19 allege his body was dissected as part of a live autopsy show conducted without their consent.

According to KING 5, the remains of David Saunders. 98, were used as part of a "Cadaver Class" organized by Death Science, a website, podcast and YouTube channel purporting to "explore the science, psychology and way of death."

The event, which took place in the ballroom of a Marriott hotel in Portland, Oregon, reportedly saw attendees pay as much as $500 to watch the autopsy and dissection of a human body over the course of two three-hour classes on October 17.

A "VIP Ticket" package was offered as part of the event, with patrons given the chance to pay more for "front row seating" while ticket holders also had "in-person cadaver access."

However, Mike Clark, the funeral director who dealt with Saunders' body following his passing, told KING 5 the deceased man's family had no idea his remains would be used in this way.

Clark, who is based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had prepared Saunders' corpse before it was handed over to Med Ed Labs for medical research, as per his family's wishes.

He told the news provider he was "horrified" after learning the body had been used as part of the live autopsy and dissection show in front of a paying audience.

"I was totally horrified," Clark said. "Our whole staff was horrified that this is what had happened to a gentleman that he and his family thought that his body was going for the advancement of medical students."

KING 5 reported that Saunders' death certificate listed his cause of death as COVID-19, meaning those who attended the live autopsy and dissection may have been exposed to the virus given the option of "in-person cadaver access" offered to ticket holders.

Clark told KING 5 that Med Ed Labs failed to disclose to him or Saunders' family that the corpse would be used in an event of this kind. As a result of the incident, he said he has ended his funeral home's working relationship with the Las Vegas company.

On its website, Med Ed Labs describes itself as an organization set up to "provide medical and surgical education and training for the advancement of medical and surgical innovation."

Obteen Nassiri, an administrator for Med Ed Labs, told the news outlet that Death Science founder Jeremy Ciliberto had been "beyond" dishonest in securing the cadaver, having claimed it would be used as part of a medical class.

Nassiri had no explanation as to why a COVID-infected body had been donated. Newsweek has contacted Med Ed Labs for comment.

Ciliberto has also rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing, saying that both the donor and his family gave consent.

"I can guarantee that that man knew his body would be used for medical research," he told KING 5. Newsweek has contacted Death Science for comment.

A similar event that had been due to take place in Seattle was canceled following several media reports detailing plans for the shows.

Correction 11/10/2021 3:23 ET — This article originally said the Death Science show was held in conjunction with the Oddities and Curiosities Expo (OCE). The cadaver class was not part of the OCE, whose only role was to provide a ticketing platform for Death Science. Newsweek regrets the error.

A body in a morgue.
Stock image of a body in a morgue - a family has claimed the body of a recently deceased relative was used without their consent in a live autopsy and dissection show. fergregory/Getty