Woman donated husband's body to science but it ended up being blown up by military
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Featured Image Credit: CBS News
A woman whose husband donated his body to medical science was shocked to learn that it was actually given to the army and blown up.
Steve Hansen was one of the 20,000 people or so that donate their bodies every year, with 47 of the 50 US states regulating that through the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.
That is where the rules and standards are set for body and organ donation.
At the very foundation of that act is the informed consent of either the person donating or their loved ones.
When the agreements are all signed off, there’s usually a stipulation that the body be used for either research or education, but that’s not always the case.
FBI Special Agent Paul Micah Johnson, who has investigated this for around a decade, said there's a ‘vast gray and black market of dead human bodies’.
He told CBS News: “Medical research and education, particularly education, is a vague term and it is not clearly defined even in the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.
"The misleading of families across the industry is quite common."
In the case of Hansen, he had always made his wish to be an organ donor clear, but when he died in 2012 from cirrhosis of the liver, doctors said his organs weren’t healthy enough for donation.
At the time, hospice workers suggested to his wife Jill that she donate his body to science.
She told CBS: “What I envisioned was him being in some medical facility.
"I just thought, what a great candidate for them to learn about the results of alcoholism and what it does to a body."
However, after transportation to the Biological Research Center in Arizona – about which plenty has been written – his body was sold to the Department of Defense.
"They told me specifically that my husband had been used as a crash test dummy in a simulated Humvee explosion," Hansen explained.
The body was sold by BRC founder Stephen Gore without Jill’s consent, where it was used for a load of military and ballistics tests, which court documents stated resulted in ‘the complete mutilation and desecration of the donor's body’.
Hansen continued: "I was devastated.
"I would've never done it if I had known.
“I just kept telling him I was sorry."
When the FBI raised Gore’s warehouse in 2014, some even needed trauma therapy because things were so disturbing and graphic.
He ended up sentenced to a year in prison with four years on parole.
As for Johnson, he believes that while the body donation industry is definitely needed for science and research, there’s a lot of work left to do if they’re to regain public trust.
He said: "It would be nice if there was one playbook for everyone.
“And so that would ideally be federal and it would cover everyone that deals with human body parts — for-profit, non-profit, all of them under one set of rules."
A body broker bill was introduced in 2022 that would see regulations on body donation federalized, though there’s not currently a date for the vote.