HILLSBORO, Ore. -- A Hillsboro woman says she’s haunted by what she says happened to her mother after she passed away.
Angelina Merrill donated her mother's body to science through a company in Arizona, but said what actually happened isn’t what she expected.
She and her mother had decided to work with Biological Resource Center located in Phoenix, Arizona to donate her mother's body to research a cure for cancer.
“They basically just take a small piece of tissue and they preserve it and send it off to a lab,” that’s what Merrill said she was told.
She said the company took her mother's body, then weeks later sent back her ashes. But then in January of 2014, the FBI raided the facility. Investigators found her mother's body inside.
“I didn't know what I had. Was my mother in the box they sent me? Was it even her? What did they send me?” said Merrill.
The entire experience was horrifying for Merrill.
It's an outcome she would have never agreed to had she been told.
“Her entire body was in separated pieces,” she said.
She along with multiple families across the U.S. are suing the company in a civil lawsuit, saying it sold body parts for profit and misrepresented how those body parts were going to be used.
Brian Kabateck, the attorney representing Merrill and other families said in general, body parts can be used for everything from medical research to military explosive testing, or canine training.
“Let's be honest, how many families would actually donate their loved ones body if they knew it was going to be used for canine training,” said Kabateck.
He said the problem isn't necessarily the use, but the fact that families have no idea that's how their loved ones’ bodies are being handled.
“It's been incredibly painful for the entire family,” said Merrill.
The man who owned the company, Stephen Gore, agreed to a plea deal in a 2015 criminal case admitting he provided human tissue to vendors and other uses families had not authorized.
The facility has since closed so KGW was unable to reach them.
Kabateck said the takeaway is if you're considering something like this for yourself or a loved one, ask a lot of questions first. Be sure to ask about specifics detailing how the body will be used.
Meanwhile, MedCure, a body donation company in Northeast Portland, wa raided by the FBI on Thursday. Records were taken, but no body parts were taken. An FBI spokesperson said no charges had been filed in that case. It’s unclear why the FBI is conducting an investigation into MedCure. Not much information is available, since a federal judge sealed the search warrant.