Man who donated his mother’s body to an Arizona centre for Alzheimer’s research discovers it was sold on to the US Military for $6,000, strapped to a chair and blown up in ‘blast test’
An Arizona man has spoken out about the heartbreak he endured when learning that the body of his mother, which he donated to a medical research centre, was sold off to the military and blown up in a ‘blast testing’ experiment.
Doris Stauffer, 73, died eight-years ago in hospice care following a several year battle with Alzheimer’s, despite doctors saying she didn’t carry the gene for the disease.
Medical officials feared the condition may have mutated and hoped to study her brain after her death to further investigate.
However, when she died in 2014, her neurologist was unable to accept her remains so her son, Jim, reached out to a number of donation facilities who he hoped would continue the investigation.
Finally, he settled on the Biological Resource Centre (BRC) in Maricopa County following a recommendation from a nurse, under the agreement that the company – led by Stephen Gore – would send her brain to a neurological research group.
‘I feel foolish,’ Jim Stauffer learning the true fate of his mother’s remains. ‘Because I’m not a trusting person, but in this situation you have no idea this is going on — you trust. I think that trust is what they fed on.’
Jim recalled how an official from BRC came to pick up his mother’s remains within 45 minutes of her death.
There, he said he signed an agreement with the official in which it was detailed what ‘would and would not’ happen to Doris’ remains.
Several days later he received a wooden box that contained the ‘majority’ of his mother’s ashes, however no information was provided about how Doris’ body was used or where the rest of her remains were.
Another three years would pass before he learned what really happened to his mother, when a reporter from Reuters sent him a series of documents.
The records showed that BRC workers detached one of Doris Stauffer’s hands for cremation. After sending those ashes back to her son, the company sold and shipped the rest of Stauffer’s body – including her brain – to a taxpayer-funded research ‘blast testing’ project for the U.S. Army.
Doris’ cadaver was then strapped into a chair on ‘some sort of apparatus’ and an explosive device was detonated beneath her.
The idea of the experiment was to ‘get an idea of what the human body goes through when a vehicle is hit by an IED,’ the documents detailed.
‘There was actually wording on this paperwork about performing this stuff,’ Jim said. ‘Performing these medical tests that may involve explosions, and we said no. We checked the “no” box on all that.’
BRC and military records show that at least 20 other bodies were also used in the blast experiments without permission of the donors or their relatives.
The donated bodies were all sold to the military for $5,893 each. Officials of the project said they never received the consent forms from the donors or their families that along with the cadavers.
Instead, they were forced to rely on the assurances of BRC that the families or donors had all agreed to be used in the specified type of research.
Jim says he still struggles with the reality of the grisly end his mother’s remains met, adding that his memories of her are regularly plagued by visions of the experiment.
‘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.’
Jim is one of 33 plaintiffs named against in a lawsuit against BRC and its owner Stephen Gore, in which the gruesome details of how the centre misused loved ones’ bodies is compared to the horror novel Frankenstein.
Gore, 52, was found guilty of operating an illegal business in 2015 after it was discovered that he had been off selling body parts.
More than 1,755 human body parts were found at the facility, which took 142 body bags to move and weighed 10 tons, according to Reuters.
In a declaration for the new lawsuit, former FBI special agent Mark Cwynar described ‘various unsettling scenes’ at the site in Phoenix.
Cwynar told of a small woman’s head sewn onto a large male torso that was hanging from the wall in a ‘Frankenstein manner’. Its placement was described as ‘an apparent morbid joke’.
He also spoke of a ‘cooler filled with male genitalia’, ‘infected heads’ and ‘bucket of heads, arms and legs’ without any identification tags.
There were also blood and bodily fluids on the floor of the freezer.
The initial 2014 raids occurred as part of a multi-state investigation into the illegal trafficking and sale of human body parts.
The BRC picked up the bodies of deceased loved ones from family homes, and from there they sold the parts to middlemen for profit.
Bodies were cut up using chain saws and band saws, tools that are not supposed to be used when medically dismembering cadavers.
There was even a price list for body parts, which included a whole upper torso for $4,000, an intact torso for $2,900, a spine for $1,900, a leg from mid-femur to toe tip for $600, a head for $500 and a knee for $375.
A full, intact body could cost anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000.
After the investigations, business owner Gore pleaded guilty in October 2015 to federal charges of conducting an illegal enterprise.
He admitted that the bodies were not used in a way that donors had permitted and that he was ‘overwhelmed’ working in an industry without regulation.
His wife, children and siblings pleaded for a lenient sentence, describing him as a ‘family man’.
Gore was sentenced in 2015 to one year deferred jail time, four years probation and was forced to pay $121,000 in restitution.
‘I could have been more open about the process of donation on the brochure we put in public view’ Gore said.
His highest level of education is high school, and he allegedly did not receive any licenses or certifications applicable to body donation program operations.