Public autopsy demonstration at $ 500 is controversial in the United States

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A public autopsy demonstration on the body of a man who died of Covid-19, organized in the northwest of the United States, was controversial on Wednesday.

Around 70 spectators spent up to $ 500 last month to witness the dissection of the body of a 98-year-old man who died of Covid by a retired anatomist live in a large hotel in Portland, Oregon.

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During a demonstration lasting several hours, Dr Colin Henderson removed the organs of the deceased, including his brain, explaining the different stages of this procedure which he performed throughout his career, according to the local television channel King 5. .

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On the channel’s footage, some spectators can be seen donning surgical gloves before handling the corpse. “It was very educational,” said a spectator, Monica, on this television, judging that “everything was done with respect for the person who gave her body”.

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According to King 5, the family of the deceased, David Saunders, had not however been informed that the body bequeathed to science would be used for this kind of paid exhibition.

Sold as “an educational experience”

The event was organized by Death Science, which promotes itself as “an independent education platform”. The tickets for this day of October 17 in Portland announced “a forensic autopsy on a complete corpse”. Was to follow an “anatomical dissection which will offer (it) a unique look at what is under our skin, in our body and how it all works together”. “Access to the corpse before, after and during breaks,” the program promised.

Death Science founder Jeremy Ciliberto said in a statement to AFP that the event aimed to “create an educational experience for people who want to learn more about human anatomy.”

A body that was dedicated to medical research, not entertainment

The body was provided by Med Ed Labs, a Las Vegas-based company which, according to its website, collects bodies donated to science. According to King 5, who cites the Louisiana funeral directors who took charge of David Saunders’ body after his death, the family believed it would be used for medical research.

Jeremy Ciliberto said he was not informed of any agreements between the family and Med Ed Labs. The latter had told him “that the body had been given for scientific, medical and educational purposes,” he says.

“We have received permission (from the family) to use the donor for medical, scientific and anatomical training and education,” one of the heads of Med Ed Labs, Obteen Nassiri, told AFP. But “we had no idea at all” that David Saunders’ dissection would take place as part of such a public, paid event, and not for students or medical professionals, he said. Med Ed Labs would never have provided a body “if we had known” and will no longer work with Death Science, he said.

Obteen Nassiri said he spoke with the family of the deceased and “we will assume full responsibility and costs for the return of the body to its family and its cremation.”

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