When Jim Stauffer’s mother Doris Stauffer died at the age of 73, he sought out a way for her body to be used to further scientific study: she had Alzheimer’s but did not carry the genes commonly associated with it, so he thought that her brain might yield further insights into the disease.
He donated her remains to Phoenix’s Biological Resource Center, not knowing that it was a criminal, for-profit enterprise run by a deluded grifter whose medical knowledge came “from books or the internet.” Years later, Stauffer was contacted by an investigative journalist from Reuters who was reporting the story, who told him that the Biological Resource Center sold his mother’s remains to the military for blast testing, in an procedure that Stauffer explained this way: “She was then supposedly strapped in a chair on some sort of apparatus, and a detonation took place underneath her to basically kind of get an idea of what the human body goes through when a vehicle is hit by an IED.”
Though years have gone by, he remains traumatized by the knowledge of the abuse of his mother’s remains.
Arizona does not require licensing of clinics that handle body donations, and even though the Arizona legislature has adopted legislation to make this a requirement in the wake of the Biological Resource Center scandal, the legislation has not been implemented and is not enforced in Arizona.
Stauffer is part of a group of families of people whose remains were mutilated by the Biological Resource Center who are suing its former owner, Stephen Gore, who is currently serving a prison sentence related to the Center’s activities.
Stauffer said he specifically marked “no” on a box that would have authorized medical tests involving explosions to be performed.
Several years have passed since he learned the fate of his mother’s body, but he still struggles with the thought of it daily.
“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.”