CBS News via KTVK

Man Sues Body-Donation Company for Selling Mother's body to Military for Blast Testing

August 01, 2019 - 11:23 am
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An Arizona man is suing a body-donation company for selling his mother's body to the military for blast testing. Jim Stauffer believed his mother's body would be used for medical research. Instead, it was used to test bomb impact.

More than five years ago, Stauffer's mother, Doris, died in hospice care after suffering from Alzheimer's. Stauffer donated his mother's body to Biological Resource Center (BRC), hoping it could be used for Alzheimer's research, according to Reuters.

Years later, a reporter fro Reuters contacted Stauffer with some shocking news. In 2016, Reuters found that more than 20 dead bodies donated to an Arizona broker were actually used in U.S. Army blast experiments. This was without the consent of the deceased or next of kin – and for some, it was done against families' objections.

Some families did not learn about these experiments from the Army, but rather, Reuters. Such was the case for Stauffer, who has since joined 32 other people in suing BRC.

Stauffer learned from Reuters that his mother's body was used in an Army experiment measuring the damage caused by roadside bombs. Doing this without permission of donors or relatives is a violation of U.S. Army policy, Reuters reports.

BRC sold donated bodies like Doris Stauffer's for $5,893 each. BRC is no longer in business – but over a decade, they were able to sell more than 20,000 parts from about 5,000 human bodies, according to Reuters.

This is just one part of a multi-part investigative series by Reuters called "The Body Trade."

"When a body is donated, few states provide rules governing dismemberment or use, or offer any rights to a donor's next of kin," Reuters explains in part one of the series, published in 2017. "Bodies and parts can be bought, sold and leased, again and again. As a result, it can be difficult to track what becomes of the bodies of donors, let alone ensure that they are handled with dignity."

Now, Stauffer is one of many suing BRC and its owner Stephen Gore, who pleaded guilty to illegal control of an enterprise. He was sentenced to one year of differed jail time and four years probation, according to KTVK.

The civil suit, filed this week, revealed disturbing new details about a 2014 FBI raid at the facility. During the BRC raid, which was part of a multi-state investigation, the FBI found buckets of body parts and the bodies of different people sewn together at the facility, KTVK reports.

One FBI agent testified that he found a "cooler filled with male genitalia," "a bucket of heads, arms and legs," "infected heads" and a small woman's head sewn onto a large male torso "like Frankenstein" hanging up on the wall.

Stauffer spoke to ABC affiliate KNXV about the suit. "I don't see a pathway of ever getting past this," he said. "Every time there's a memory, every time there's a photograph you look at, there's this ugly thing that happened just right there staring right at you."

"[Stephen Gore] didn't care about the families, he didn't care about the people and he didn't care about the memories," Stauffer said. "If I can be a little small part of his personal financial destruction, I don't care."