Spain 1989: Full autopsy on a cryonics patient without knowledge or consent

...(For shipment from Spain) 60 kilos of dry ice were placed around the outside of the insulated box in an uninsulated and vented crate (the irony of this is that had the dry ice been placed inside the well-insulated shipping coffin, the amount of carbon dioxide generated in the aircraft would have been a tiny fraction of what was generated as the dry ice sublimed away in an uninsulated container, and Laura (the cryonics patient) would have probably been colder on arrival, rather than warmer!). Thus Laura arrived packed in water ice at a temperature of -5°C at 4:00 P.M. on September 3 (even though all the dry ice had sublimed long before her arrival).

...Owing to the patient's subzero arrival temperature, and a thick head of hair saturated with partially frozen formalin, it had not been possible to evaluate the scalp for incisions. But the family physician, Laura's parents, and Alicia all assured us that no post-mortem cranial examination had been performed. "They did not touch her brain," we were assured.

...The presence of what appeared to be a full autopsy incision caused us great concern. Having had some experience with the integrity of American coroners, we had reason to wonder about their Spanish colleagues. After some discussion it was decided that a full-body radiologic evaluation needed to be undertaken to determine the extent of the dissection and to rule out any possibility that a cranial autopsy had been performed without the family's knowledge.

...Arrangements were made with a portable X-ray service to bring out an X-ray unit. A procedure was worked out whereby Laura could quickly be transferred from the Silcool bath to a sleeping bag which had been precooled with liquid nitrogen.

...Laura's cranial vault was empty — except for a homogenous mass occupying the posterior 1/3rd of it; apparently blood/fluid that had leaked into the empty cavity after her brain had been removed. The abdominal and chest films revealed no cardiac shadow, abnormal bowel gas patterns and no evidence of a right kidney. Laura had been completely autopsied.

...We suggested that the pathologist who conducted the autopsy be contacted (as opposed to the coroner, with whom they had been dealing) and asked some rather pointed questions. We also told them of our intention to have CT scans done to try and resolve if tissue had been returned to the body cavity and perhaps, as a long shot, to try and identify the brain if it was there.

...He confirmed that a complete autopsy had been performed, further stated that Laura's brain had been bisected laterally, with a sample taken for microscopy, and confirmed that, to the best of his knowledge, his assistant had returned the brain to one of the body cavities with the rest of the viscera. The question now was: could he be believed? At this stage, after so many lies, could anyone be believed?

...(To obtain more detail than the portable x-ray service had provided, Laura was positioned in the sleeping bag, a mobile CT unit in a large van was used.)

...Cross-section after cross-section appeared on the CT screen. The level of detail was astonishing. Here, for the first time, a suspension patient was imaged by state-of-the-art non-invasive medical technology. Gradually the interior of the patient was being revealed a slice at time. The images were surreal and breathtaking; each cross-section showed not only the patient, but the surrounding cocoon of dry ice and sleeping bag, and the wires of the thermocouples and their shadows.

...The first images confirmed the absence of brain tissue within the cranial vault. All that was present was a nearly uniform mass of ice occupying the posterior third of the cranial cavity. As the scan progressed, it was possible to make out irregular but unidentifiable tissue masses within the chest and abdomen. It was apparent that a large amount of tissue had been returned to Laura's body cavities, but it was not possible to determine what kind of tissue it was. At least it was possible to determine that tissues were present in the chest and abdomen (a very real possibility was that there were none, since some coroners simply discard the removed viscera and replace it with absorbent packing and a plaster/ paraformaldehydebased mortuary product called hardening compound).

...Due to our dry-ice-and-mummybag insulation, Laura's temperature did not rise at all throughout the entire two-hour CT scan procedure. Following the CT scan, Laura was returned to the Silcool bath for temporary storage at -79°C until a decision could be reached concerning her further care. The Tomases (Laura's family) were told of her condition and of the inconclusive results of the CT scan. (No proof that the brain was anywhere in the body.) They were left in the horrible position of having to rely on the word of people who had lied to them repeatedly in the past, and what's more, had absolutely no reason not to lie to them now concerning the location of Laura's brain and the extent to which it had been dissected.

SOURCE: Autopsy of Alcor Patient A-1196 (Case Summary Excepts)