An Arizona man has gone public with his despair over learning that his mother’s body, which he donated to science, ended up being blown up by the U.S. Army in a “blast test.”
Jim Stauffer shared his story with ABC 7 of Los Angeles in a segment that aired Tuesday. Stauffer had cared for his elderly mother, Doris Stauffer, during her decline into dementia.
When she died in 2013, aged 74, Jim Stauffer decided to let researchers analyze her brain in hopes of contributing to a cure for Alzheimer’s. Doctors said Doris Stauffer did not have the gene for the disease, and worried it might have mutated. They hoped looking at her brain could yield new insights.
In the end, however, her neurologist couldn’t accept the body. So, at a nurse’s suggestion, the family contacted Biological Resource Center, a local company that brokered the donation of human bodies for research.
According to a December 2016 Reuters report, Jim Stauffer signed a form authorizing his mother’s body to be used for medical research. But he checked a box indicating he did not want it used for military, traffic-safety and other non-medical experiments.
BRC workers then detached and cremated one of Doris Stauffer’s hands and sent the ashes to her son. But the company never told Jim Stauffer what happened to the rest of his mother’s body.
The explosive truth
It was only in 2016 that the Reuters reporter told him the truth, based on internal BRC and Army records. BRC had sold Doris Stauffer’s body to the Army for $5,893 before shipping it off to be used in the taxpayer-funded research project.
“She was then supposedly strapped in a chair on some sort of apparatus, and a detonation took place underneath her,” Jim Stauffer told ABC. “To basically kind of get an idea of what the human body goes through when a vehicle is hit by an IED.”
Reuters found that the Army, against its policy, used at least 20 other bodies in the blast testing without the permission of donors or relatives.
Army officials involved in the research told Reuters that they never received the consent forms the donors or their families had signed. They said they trusted BRC’s assurances that the families had agreed to let the bodies be used in such experiments.
BRC, which sold over 20,000 parts and more than 5,000 human bodies over the course of 1o years, is no longer in business. Steven Gore, its former owner, pleaded guilty to fraud charges in 2015, Reuters reported.
Jim Stauffer opens up
Although Stauffer was featured in the Reuters report, he said little about his feelings at the time. He was described as reacting with anger on learning of the fate of his mother’s body. He was quoted only as saying: “It shocks me that the military was involved.”
However, Stauffer opened up to ABC. He showed a film crew the inside of him home, which is filled with photographs and other memories of his mother. At one point, he took out a small wooden box filled with the six ounces of her ashes he received from BRC.
“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,” he said, tearing up. “She will never be forgotten here.”