Like Santa Claus
In the Middle Ages, cities used to dispute over the bodies of saints, partly because their relics would ensure a steady stream of devout pilgrims. The latter-day version of this is a dispute in Colorado over the head of 71-year-old Mary Robbins, who died on February 9. The contending parties are her family and the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, an Arizona company which freezes heads and bodies so that they can be restored to life when the technology becomes available.
The bodies or heads of more than 80 people are stored at Alcor’s facilities, and more than 850 people have signed up to be preserved when they die. “Alcor is not a cult and it’s not a fly-by-night operation. It’s a science-based medical organization,” says its attorney. The company insists that “the spiritual status of cryonics patients is the same as frozen human embryos, or unconscious medical patients” and that it is attempting to maintain life, not restore it.
In 2006 Mrs Robbins instructed Alcor to cryogenically preserve her head and brain. She also agreed to give the nonprofit foundation a US$50,000 annuity to cover maintenance costs. Her family says that she changed her mind shortly before she died and refuses to hand the annuity over to Alcor. Until the dispute is settled in probate court, Mrs Robbins’s body has been stored in a mortuary in Colorado Springs.
“I’ve never tried a case where we’re talking about the dismemberment of a body and fighting over pieces of a body,” the family’s attorney told AP. But at least he can study some precedents, like the dispute between Venice and Bari over the bones of St Nicolas of Myra (aka Santa Claus). ~ Los Angeles Times, Feb 20
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