Alcor's Dora Kent Crisis and Legal Aftermath


  1. Initial Timeline of the Dora Kent Crisis
  2. February 1, 1988 update
  3. March 1, 1988 Questions and Answers
  4. Status Report: Act IV: Enter the Riverside Police
  5. Our Records Come Back (Some of them, anyway)
  6. Alcor files suit Against the California Public Health Service
  7. Keystone Coroners
  8. Dora Kent Case Update
  9. Legal Update
  10. DHS Lawsuit Update
  11. Whatever Happened to the Riverside Coroner?
  12. DHS Update
  13. California Appeal Court Upholds Alcor's rights to UAGA
  14. Out-of-Court Settlement for False Arrest
  15. The Death Certificate Problem Gets Solved
  16. Alcor's Previous Victory Does Not Apply to Other Cryonics Organizations

I. Initial Timeline of the Dora Kent Crisis

From CRYONICS magazine January 1988 (page 1-8)

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9, 1987 (Early morning)

Saul Kent receives a call from the nursing home where his mother Dora is being cared for. They tell him she is critically ill and may be near death.

For at least the last four years Dora has been essentially bed-ridden by osteoporosis and senility. Saul decides it is pointless to treat her new case of pneumonia aggressively, and instead chooses to prepare for his mother's cryonic suspension. He orders an ambulance to pick up his mother from the nursing home and transfer her to the Alcor facility.


Dora Kent is brought into the Alcor facility, and is examined by Steve Harris, M.D. Dr. Harris concurs with the nursing home's assessment that Dora is near death, determines that she has pneumonia and discusses with her son and conservator Saul Kent what kind of care is to be given. Considering her virtually nonexistent quality of life and her previously stated wishes that she not be allowed to exist in such a dependent and "vegetative" state, a decision is made to provide only basic care and comfort and forego any extraordinary measures to prolong life. Basic nursing care and high concentration oxygen are provided to keep her alive until preparations for suspension can be completed. Care given is both aggressive and competent.


Shortly after midnight, Dora Kent stops breathing, and in a few more minutes the cardiac monitor hooked up to her ceases to reflect any cardiac activity. Mike Darwin and then Jerry Leaf "auscultate" (listen to) Dora's chest with a stethoscope and verify the absence of respiration and heart beat. Unfortunately the physician who was expected to pronounce death is not present; Alcor personnel, misinterpreting the definition of "physician in attendance" as required by the Riverside County Coroner's office, proceed with the suspension process.

The following day the physician signs the death certificate.


The mortician whom Saul contracted with to dispose of the nonsuspended portion of Dora's remains attempts to file a death certificate with the Public Health Service and obtain a cremation permit. The permit is rejected by Public Health due to the fact that a physician was not physically present at the time of death. Alcor realizes that they have a "coroner's case."


The Coroner arrives at Alcor, removes the nonsuspended portion of Dora's remains and states that they "might" do an autopsy, although that is "by no means a certainty."


The coroner's office contacts Alcor and notifies us that the autopsy confirmed pneumonia as the cause of death.


Mike Darwin and Saul Kent meet with Mr. Rick Bogan and Mr. Alan Kunzman, two of the Coroner's Deputies handling the case. They are assured by Bogan and Kunzman that the case is closed, they are provided with a copy of the death certificate, and are told that they can cremate the remains. Mike Darwin and Saul Kent walk across the street to the Public Health Services (PHS) office and apply for certified copies of the death certificate. They are told that cause of death is "pending" and the death certificate provided by the Coroner's office is taken from them. They return to the Coroner's office and are assured by Mr. Bogan that the cause of death has been determined and that the completed death certificate will be "momentarily hand carried personally to the PHS" by Mr. Bogan. At this juncture Mike Darwin states his concern that the remains not be cremated if there is any question as to cause of death, since Alcor would then want to retain an independent pathologist to conduct another autopsy.

Bogan assures Mike and Saul that there "will be no criminal charges" and that "the investigation of the cause of Dora Kent's death is closed." He then provides Mike and Saul with another copy of the death certificate, signed by himself and by the County pathologist.


There is a newspaper report on the "bizarre" case that is being investigated by the Riverside County Coroner's Office of a cryonics group that removed the head of an elderly woman so that it could be frozen. There was no physician involved with the procedure, and the coroner suspects that the woman may not have been dead when her head was removed. The group froze the woman's head in the hope that sometime in the future a new body can be cloned for her and her head can be transplanted onto it. The source of this gruesome story is the Riverside Country Coroner's Office: they held a press conference to announce their ongoing investigation, "Liberace style."

The press conference, conducted by Bogan and Kunzman, raises the issue that "Dora Kent was not brain dead" as is normally required for the removal of organs (in this case the brain itself!).

The ethics of taking off people's heads or, for that matter of even freezing them before brain death is pronounced, are raised.

The media seizes on the issue of Dora possibly being "alive" when her head was removed.

A media extravaganza ensues. The coroner's office is deluged with press.


Coroner's deputies enter the Alcor facility with a search warrant allowing them to remove all Alcor's patient care records (including personal photos and patient diaries) of all Alcor patients, and specifically, the head of Dora Kent, for the purposes of autopsy.

The deputy coroners then confiscate the records on all our suspended patients and copy down names and addresses of all Alcor suspension members. Finally, they demand that Alcor surrender to them the frozen head of Dora Kent. Mike Darwin tells them that her head is not here at the facility and that he does not know where it is. Shortly thereafter Mike Darwin is handcuffed, along with Hugh Hixon. Other Alcor members return from a trip for lunch, and they are handcuffed as well. Later, Alcor treasurer Carlos Mondragon drives out to the Alcor facility to speak with the press and he is handcuffed and taken away while giving an interview. In all, six Alcor members are taken to the Riverside County Jail, but only Mike Darwin is charged with anything, a charge something to the effect of "interfering with a police investigation and destroying evidence." Alcor's attorney, Chris Leanders, is summoned and the charges against Mike are dropped and all the Alcor people are released.

During his "questioning" Mike Darwin is threatened with the destruction of Alcor and the personal ruin of Jerry Leaf and Dr. Steve Harris. "If you just give us the head of Dora Kent," he is told, "you'll still have a salvageable business here." Mike is further warned that unless he gives the coroner's deputies what they want he is risking Steve Harris and Jerry Leaf "being dragged through the mud" and possibly led away in handcuffs from UCLA.

Alcor members who were taken into custody and then released, besides Mike and Hugh, were Mike Perry, Dave Pizer (who was visiting the facility for a day!), Arthur McCombs, and Carlos Mondragon. (Carlos, who had not been at the facility earlier that day, spoke for about 20 minutes to reporters who by this time had gathered, before he too was hauled away.)

JANUARY 12 - 13, 1988

At approximately 8: 30 AM the Coroner's deputies, this time with the UCLA Police and a SWAT team, again storm the Alcor facility. Over the next 30 hours the facility is stripped of tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Many items purchased from the UCLA Surplus and Excess Property Department (and still bearing UCLA ID tags) are taken. The coroner's office also removes all 8 computers in the facility and every bit of magnetic media: software, administrative records, hard disks, and even the tapes in the Cryovita answering machine! They also take every printer out of the facility, including two identical high speed C. Itoh printers on which CRYONICS magazine is produced as well as all documentation and manuals for use of the computers.

About $5,000 worth of prescription medications is also seized. The Alcor facility is left in a shambles. Dozens of items not on the warrant mysteriously disappear after the coroner's raid — everything from personal effects to major items of property (such as the contents of Alcor's electrical service cart).

Sterile tubing packs and supplies are opened and strewn about the facility. Perfusate chemicals and other reagents have been opened and subjected to tests for cocaine and presumably other illicit drugs. Staff personal effects such as notes are taken from the facility and do not appear on the "return warrant" (listing property taken).


Alcor is issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Coroner by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Victor Miceli. This TRO enjoins the Coroner from thawing and/or autopsying ANY Alcor patients (including Dora Kent) until a hearing on February 1, 1988. The pleadings for the TRO are prepared by Christopher Ashworth, a Century City attorney with an outstanding reputation in such difficult constitutional cases.

THE INITIAL CRISIS IN MORE DETAIL: Notes On the Dora Kent Crisis (by Mike Perry, PhD)

(return to contents)

II. February 1, 1988 update

From CRYONICS magazine February 1988 (page 2,5-7)

On February 1st we returned to Riverside Superior Court asking for a preliminary restraining order (PRO). To the amazement of almost everyone involved (especially the Coroner) we got the PRO! The order effectively bars the Coroner from autopsying any Alcor patients without the Coroner having to return to court and show cause as to why this would be necessary and in the interest of the state and the people of California. This ruling is a first and is a groundbreaking precedent upholding the rights of patients in cryonic suspension.

Alcor presented an extensive set of scientific and forensic declarations to support its pleading for restraint of the Coroner. These declarations upheld the scientific and technical validity of cryonics as a reasonable undertaking and were made by leading experts in a number of disciplines including cryobiology, nanotechnology, molecular biology, robotics, and information theory. A declaration was also obtained from a top-flight forensic pathologist which supported Alcor's position that autopsy of Dora Kent's brain would yield no useful information that could not have been obtained from examination of the body.

Alcor was represented in Superior Court by Christopher Ashworth, a noted constitutional attorney. Ashworth's pleadings and his excellent preparation of our case were instrumental in our winning the PRO. But beyond technical excellence there is the matter of Mr. Ashworth's STYLE. Ashworth is witty, saucy, and in total command of the courtroom when he has the floor. And when he doesn't have the floor his presence looms even larger — he is the proverbial tough act to follow — with a vengeance. His grasp of complex technical issues is immediate and superb, and he speaks in phrases which demand quotation.

"Dora Kent didn't go through all this crap to have her brain end up in a blender" is an example of one of the blunt but effective Ashworth statements that ended up as bold print in one of the local papers. We owe Linda Abrams a debt of gratitude for recommending Mr. Ashworth early on in the emergency.

The Coroner's office may appeal the ruling of February 1st to a higher court. But if they choose to do so and lose, they will have set a precedent with the force of law — a precedent which might seriously alter the way coroners do business throughout the United States. We think we have an excellent chance of winning such an appeal — and apparently so does the Coroner. Rumors are circulating to the effect that the Coroner's office does not plan to appeal the ruling. The following pages contain newspaper accounts of our PRO victory. For many of you they will be the only objective coverage you will see of our struggle.

As of this writing (Feb. 15th) the Coroner still has the Alcor computers, files, and patient records. A variety of legal maneuvers is underway to recover these items as well as damages. A top priority is recovery of the patient records — or at least a copy of them — as soon as possible. So far we have secured a copy of Dora Kent's suspension files and records. The others remain in the hands of a Coroner who refuses to communicate with us and who has, so far, refused to allow even a copy of these critical records to be made and put in back in Alcor's hands.

The status of the Alcor property removed by the UCLA police is more hopeful. UCLA officials have "cleared" about 90% of the items and will be returning them to us in the next few weeks. A number of items we purchased either lack proper records (on UCLA's end) or have been reported stolen within the UCLA system despite the fact that they were sold to us by the UCLA Surplus and Excess Property Department (SEPD). Fortunately, we have employees in the SEPD who remember selling us many of the "questioned" items and we are hopeful about a favorable resolution to this matter over the course of the next month or two.

One thing we are learning the hard way. Property is taken from you quickly by the state without any opportunity for explanation or justification. Getting it back requires enormous amounts of time, effort, and money. Once an "investigation" is under way, nothing happens quickly and fast resolutions are the stuff of movie thrillers. In some instances Alcor may be in court for years to come over property or other matters relating to this incident.

... While the situation at Alcor Southern California remains one of "medium concern" (we are at about Defcon 3) we are not at the moment in a "bubbling crisis." Over the past several days we have had a Public Health Service inspection and a Fire Department inspection. The PHS inspection was for issuance of an infectious waste handling/disposition permit which is required by state and county law. We just recently found out about this law (and in fact Riverside County only began to enforce it about 11 months ago!) and had to make a few minor changes in our procedures to be in compliance with law — for one thing, having arrangements with a state-licensed contractor for disposal of infectious wastes. Alcor passed the inspection with flying colors. Of the 46 items required of us, all were met and no violations were present. The fire inspection resulted in a similar clean bill of health.

However, we have one major hurdle to get over before we can relax even a little about prospects for remaining here in Riverside. The city is requiring that we obtain a "conditional use permit" from the Zoning Board/City Council. Such permits are intensely political things — they are issued not only on "objective criteria" such traffic congestion, parking, and so on, but on intangible criteria such as "do we want you people in our community.v This may be a rough one to get. We have retained an excellent governmental relations firm to help us through this process and we are hopeful. But we will not know for sure what our chances are until we have our hearing on or about the first week of April.

(return to contents)

III. March 1, 1988 Questions and Answers

From CRYONICS magazine March 1988 (page 2-6)

Q. Outsiders and those on the peri- phery of cryonics sometimes ask if there is any substance to charges that barbiturates were administered before legal death occurred? In other words, "Did you do it?"

A. We ask this question here so that we can clearly and unequivocally answer it. No, we did not administer any barbiturates to Mrs. Kent before her legal death. There was no reason to do so — and in fact a considerable effort had to be made to maintain her vital functions (i.e., keep her alive) until preparations for suspension were complete.

Q. What is the status of the UCLA stolen property investigation?

A. With all but a few exceptions, our property has been cleared for release, but it has not been returned to us. The major item UCLA police are contending was stolen is a large item of furniture (an $1,800 stainless steel medical cart) which was purchased by Alcor at UCLA Surplus and Excess Property. Witnesses to this purchase exist, as well as receipts. Despite early news reports to the contrary, UCLA has declined to file theft charges. We are confident that if they do, we will win.

There was no stolen property from in the Alcor facility from UCLA or anywhere else.

Q. What has been said by the District Attorney's Office about the Coroner's finding of homicide?

A. Statements have been mixed. Initially very radical statements were made to the effect that crimes in the form of stolen property and homicide were known to have occurred. Later, more moderate statements were made. But one thing seems clear: any trial of Alcor Suspension Team Members will be highly technical, attract enormous international press attention, and hinge on issues of fundamental importance to cryonics.

By way of example we quote from an article in the February 24th Riverside Press Enterprise, wherein Deputy District Attorney Curt Hinman made a statement that, "even if the people at the Alcor laboratory determined Kent was dead when the drugs were administered, the question is why barbiturates, which are sedatives, were given. If the reason is to keep her from reviving, then is she really dead? If they keep her from waking up, that's murder."

Needless to say they haven't asked why we give barbiturates (they reduce cerebral metabolic demands during poor tissue perfusion — ischemia — enormously) and the statement about preventing her from reviving only goes to illustrate the profound ignorance and lack of even basic medical understanding which has surrounded this case from the start.

If a person is a "no code" (i.e., not to be resuscitated in the event of respiratory and/or cardiac arrest) such as Dora Kent, and dies, and you restore circulation and breathing artificially (i.e., via CPR) and you give them medications in the course of the procedure that would prevent them from resuming spontaneous respiration and breathing (which they wouldn't have done anyway unless you started CPR) and then you place them in cryonic suspension, have you killed them? Or to sum it up as one wag put it: "Those people at Alcor are a dangerous bunch. They killed a little old lady who died of natural causes and if they aren't stopped they may kill other people who die of natural causes!"

Q. If Alcor Suspension Team Member(s) are indicted, what will happen to Alcor?

A. Alcor will continue to function. The quality of service we offer will remain unchanged while we await trial providing we can make bail. We are planning aggressively right now to insure that everyone who might be charged makes bail. We did not commit a murder or engage in any other criminal wrongdoing and we have commitments and responsibilities to patients in suspension and to our members — we are not going to run away. Apparently the DA knows that, and that is why we aren't all in jail with astronomical bails right now.

If we are charged, it may well be as long as a year before we come to trial. Alcor will go on operating. A good measure of our continued effectiveness will hinge on our ability to make bail. If you can help in this regard please contact Alcor. You may be able to help by pledging property as collateral or by contributing cash for bail.

In any event, Alcor will continue to operate to the best extent possible. Contingency plans covering a wide range of possible unfavorable outcomes are in place to provide for continued patient care and suspension services for members.

Q. What effect has this "investigatio" had on the practical ability of Alcor and other cryonics organizations to make necessary arrangements to facilitate a member's suspension — such as hospital and mortuary cooperation? A. Frankly, we don't know, but we can't imagine it would be good. If you have a working relationship with a mortuary, ambulance company, or physician now would be a good time to touch bases with the individuals involved and make sure things are still solid. Generally we have found the community at large and people in general to be surprisingly supportive once they get the full story. Our best advice is to pull no punches. Let people know what's going on and the nature of the trouble. Don't be afraid to have them call us if they need additional information.

And, if you haven't made local arrangements for emergency transportation and use of mortuary facilities in your community (i.e., you don't live in the Los Angeles or Miami areas) now is the time to do so. Also, consider contacting your local coroner or medical examiner and explaining your interest in cryonics and your concern over the possibility of autopsy. It is never too soon to start educating these officials. And if you find they can't be educated — move. It's just that simple.

Q. Are the Alcor patients still protected by the restraining order in the face of criminal charges?

A. Yes, to the best of our knowledge they are. Additionally, the nature of the case against Alcor is such that autopsy of Dora Kent's head is not going to yield any relevant information.

Why is the Coroner pursuing this course of action against Alcor?

We wish we knew for sure. Our best guess is that it is a mixture of ignorance, misunderstanding, and fear. Yes, fear. We know from published interviews that carrying out a cryonic suspension under optimum circumstances as we did in the case of Mrs. Kent made some of the deputies very uncomfortable (this is an understatement). Deputy Coroner Rick Bogan has stated on numerous occasions that he felt cryonics needed to regulated and it was apparent to us from the start that no one in the Coroner's office seemed to understand what cryonics was about — let alone care in the slightest about the well-being of the patient's in suspension. Patients are just debris, just pieces of meat to be buried or burned.

If the Coroner thought even remotely that cryonics might work they would no more want to autopsy Dora Kent than they would want to go into an ICU and autopsy a patient struggling for life with a bullet in his brain.

No doubt another part of the problem is political. The press conference on December 23 started a chain reaction which has resulted in enormous expense and grief on both sides. It becomes a game of "chicken." On their side their careers are potentially at stake, on our side our lives. Because they don't understand cryonics and because they are convinced it won't work, they can't fully appreciate our position.

Someone in Northern California summed up their perception of the situation nicely: "[The Coroner's staff] thought this was just some crap game in the back of a sleazy little pool parlor and that everyone would run for the door as soon as they shouted 'Police!'." They were wrong. There is nothing dirty or ugly about cryonics — it is one of the most powerful and positive things in our lives and we will stand up and defend it.

And as to our perception of them? Al Roca, one of our Associate Members on the East Coast, summed it up beautifully: "An Aztec official, if taken into an operating room today where open-heart surgery was being performed, would probably imagine it was a new form of human sacrifice." Likewise, Deputy Coroner Cupido sees the headless corpse of Dora Kent and can see only homicide, which his principles say must be prosecuted. As cryonicist Thomas Donaldson wrote several years ago:

'Ixlipotli the Aztec had a life founded upon firm moral values, such as cannibalism and periodic scarification. His high ethical principles gave structure and meaning to his life, and his achievements gave him a sense of deep personal satisfaction. To be chosen to cut out the heart of a captive was a great personal honor, signaling the respect which he merited throughout all Tenochtitlan. It was the year 1492, though not on his calendar.' "Welcome to the third millennium, Mr. Cupido. Try not to cause too much damage."

Q. What is the utility of various political maneuvers to aid Alcor, such as letter writing campaigns?

A. It is the opinion of our counsel that this not an effective or particularly desirable thing to do at this time. The District Attorney has the matter under consideration and the DA is not likely to be influenced by letter writing or other such actions (as properly he should not be). At this sensitive time, attempts at "politicking" can actually be counterproductive. Counsel has advised us to adopt a conservative stance in this respect.

Also, keep in mind that even though you do not speak or act for Alcor directly, your actions and behavior may speak for us indirectly. In all of your communications and actions, use the highest standards of integrity and style. We want to remain in this community and be taken seriously as thoughtful, rational people — not emotional kooks and flakes. Cryonics isn't a cult anymore than a self-help legal clinic is a cult. Granted, we are all very hurt, angry, and above all, frightened and frustrated by what has happened, but we must not lose our cool. We must demonstrate courage, which has been defined quite aptly as grace under pressure.

All of the Directors and Officers of Alcor feel quite strongly that the image we should strive ceaselessly to project is the image which best reflects the reality of Alcor: one of thoughtful integrity. A man is respected a thousand times more for bottling his anger and channeling it to productive ends than by shouting and complaining in the night. Harsh and angry words about those who oppose us only serve to bring us down to a level where we don't belong. And besides, those kinds of things will do nothing to resolve the situation — only polarize and cloud the judgment of everyone involved. They may make us feel better in the short run, but in the long run they will only serve to hurt us.

Bear in mind also that any remarks you make about any of Alcor's operations or the individuals involved may end up in the newspaper and could powerfully affect the lives and well-being of suspension team members. And the press can be a very powerful tool — for good or ill. It is so easy for remarks made out of context (or even in context, for that matter) to be misinterpreted or deliberately distorted. As has been said in other wars, "Loose Lips Sink Ships." It's probably best not to talk to the press about Alcor except in the most general way. On the other hand, it's perfectly fine to talk about personal motivations for cryonics and overall impressions of Alcor and the people in it (hopefully these will be positive!).

Q. A reporter from the LOS ANGELES TIMES asked what would happen if key Alcor people went to jail over this affair? "Wouldn't that be the end for Alcor and cryonics?" he asked.

A. The answer is "No and No." The quality of service may drop for a while, but as long as we are allowed to by the state, We will continue to operate and care for the patients we have in suspension.

(return to contents)

IV. Status Report: Act IV: Enter the Riverside Police

From CRYONICS magazine May 1988 (page 1,2,7)

The "homicide" investigation of Dora Kent's death has taken on a new dimension. According to the April 3, 1988 Riverside Press-Enterprise, Raymond Carrillo, Riverside County Coroner, requested that the Riverside Police Department (RPD) take over the investigation of Dora Kent's "death." A detective has been assigned to the case and we understand that the RPD is investigating the matter in conjunction with the District Attorney's office and the Coroner's office. We have reprinted the newspaper account of this development on the next page. We have no information beyond what we read in the paper. Make of it what you will!

On April 5th, after weeks of waiting, a 16 ft. truck of Alcor property was returned to the facility. The property constituted over 90% by volume of what was taken from us. Only items for which we had uncontested receipts were returned. As the accompanying pictures show, this was a considerable volume of material, consisting of over 100 items seized during the raid on the Alcor facility on February 12-13.

As of this writing UCLA is currently holding 19 items of property for which we either have no receipt (in most cases because the property was purchased over 10 years ago!) or for which they refuse to accept the receipts we have provided. In particular, UCLA police are maintaining that a 5-shelf stainless steel utility cart which was purchased from UCLA Surplus and Excess Property is stolen. We purchased this item last August and we have several witnesses to this effect, as well as a receipt and the cancelled check! In addition, none of our prescription medications or our reagents which were seized during the raid have been returned — this despite the fact that their warrant did not authorize the removal of these items!

We also reproduce a part of the Affiant's declaration by Deputy Coroner Allen Kunzman which allowed them to get the warrant to enter our facility and seize our property without even giving us an opportunity to prove ownership. You will note that the Affiant's declaration states that UCLA shows the electron microscope which we purchased from them to be "stolen, missing or destroyed." We also reproduce a copy of the UCLA receipt and canceled Cryovita check for this item dated April 3, 1981. The UCLA claim on the electron microscope is particularly bemusing on several counts, not the least of which is that it weighs over half a ton and normally occupies a room by itself.

We are still trying to adjust to the reality of what happened to us. On the basis of information from Lieutenant Cueba of the UCLA police, a warrant was issued which allowed the Coroners to come into the Alcor facility and seize a truckload of our property and cart it away along with the receipts that would allow us to prove we own it. And furthermore, we have been unable to get our property back unless we could produce a receipt showing that we bought it! Can you imagine someone coming into your home and seizing all your furniture and possessions and then demanding that you produce receipts to prove that you purchased it?!

In many instances property was taken which did not even have UCLA property stickers — or any evidence whatsoever that it was related to UCLA. For instance, UCLA police are still holding 5 gallons of our silicone cooling liquid (which was purchased from Chemcentral, a local chemical supplier) as well as vials of injectable Mexican Hydergine (the labeling is in Spanish!) which is used in ischemia experiments and which it is legal to bring across the border. They also took reagents such as the amino acid taurine and fish oil capsules — items UCLA is hardly likely to have — and yet we have to come up with receipts for these items or forfeit them!

We have been told we will probably never get our medications back — and even if we do they will probably be worthless as they are being stored outside in an unairconditioned tractor-trailer at over 120øF.

As it is we were lucky to get the equipment and disposables back that we did. All but three of our oxygenators have been returned and virtually all of our furniture except the rolling rack was given back. Of course, we had to spend nearly $230 renting a liftgate truck and driving 180 miles to pick our possessions up, not to mention 24 man-hours of lost time picking it up and putting it away once it arrived. And of course there will be no compensation for the scratches, dents, and damage done to the equipment during its seizure and transport to UCLA. We have discovered that damage inflicted during execution of a search warrant cannot be recovered. It's a lucky thing they didn't rip our doors apart and tear out our walls looking for illegal drugs!

(return to contents)

V. Our Records Come Back (Some of them, anyway)

From CRYONICS magazine September 1988 (page 2,3)

Eight months after they were seized, most of Alcor's and Cryovita's paper records and photographs were returned by the Riverside Police Department (RPD). After months of promises and false starts which caused enormous anxiety and frustration, the records were returned on Thursday, September 8. We had been told no fewer than half a dozen times that the records would be released only to spend the entire day by the phone and be disappointed. We were particularly anxious to get back the patient records and personal effects which had been seized during the coroner's raid on January 12.

In fairness to the RPD, it should be noted that much of the delay in getting return of the documents was due to the sloppy and incompetent way they had been catalogued during the search/seizure and their subsequent mishandling by the coroners after they were seized. One delay was due to the Judge's refusal to sign the release order because the original return warrant (which lists what was taken) had such professional and detailed descriptions of things such as "miscellaneous papers." The Judge, quite properly, did not consider such a description adequate.

Most of the archival slides and videotapes which were returned were fairly intact. However, the paper records were another matter. There was one large box of "miscellaneous papers" which was a rat's nest of stirred and abused records. All of Cryovita's accounting and canceled checks had been milled through and mixed up with a wide range of other papers. Also in this stack of chaos were bits and pieces from the patients' medical and cryonic suspension files. About 30% of Cryovita's documents were missing and about 15% to 20% of the patient's records were missing.

Almost all of this latter loss is recoverable. For example, many of the photos of suspension operations were missing from the file jackets, but the negatives were returned intact, so we have been able to recover those prints. In several cases where data sheets or patient care summaries are missing we have been able to recover that information from other files or sources. In only one case are we missing patient care information which we may be unable to recover. Fortunately it is not core perfusion and cooling data, but rather summary dictation and conclusions on the patient's perfusion.

We have been given to understand that the mess the records were in was a result of the Coroner's handling of them. This simply confirms that Necrocrats are no more competent than the Astrocrats of NASA, the Medicrats at the Public Health Service or any other bureaucrats for that matter.

The RPD retained several items "for use as possible evidence in their homicide investigation." Among the items retained were two videotapes which record the perfusion of Alcor patient Theresa Cannon and a complete set of slides on all patients perfused by Cryovita for Trans Time, Inc. We are attempting to secure copies of those items at this time, although the police have made it clear that it is not a high priority for them.

We have been repeatedly told that our computers and magnetic media will be returned in the immediate future. However, as of this writing there has been no movement in that direction. The RPD has retained a computer expert to copy all 300+ of our diskettes and to print out hard copy on them using our machines and printers (pity the poor fellow who has to sort through all that stuff)! Currently the RPD has eight of our computers, six of our printers and virtually all of our software manuals, software, and related documentation.

Nevertheless, despite the delays and problems we are excited and pleased with the release of our patient records and looking forward to the return of our computers and magnetic media (the latter of which we did not have backed up off site!).

See also: Lawsuit against illegal seizure of Alcor's email

(return to contents)

VI. Alcor files suit Against the California Public Health Service

From CRYONICS magazine September 1988 (page 4,5)

On August 30th, a long-time Alcor Suspension Member who wishes to remain anonymous filed suit against the California Public Health Service. The purpose of the suit is to seek declaratory relief from a Magistrate to allow for the member's suspension. The member is using the pseudonym of John Roe in order to protect his professional reputation and livelihood. Alcor has joined with Mr. Roe in the suit on behalf of all 107 of its other Suspension Members.

The suit was necessitated by the PHS' refusal to issue VS-9 permits of disposition of human remains and their written and verbal threats to prosecute both Alcor and Trans Time for holding human remains in cryonic suspension which they have publicly stated is "illegal." In June, David Mitchell of the PHS reported wrote a letter to the Riverside and Alameda County PHS departments and District Attorney's Offices recommending enforcement. Enforcement would presumably mean turning over our patients to a mortuary, crematory, or other licensed facility for "conventional" and "legal" disposal. This left us little choice but to go to the court for declaratory relief.

And what is the source of all this trouble? Surprisingly enough it does not appear to be the Dora Kent case. Rather it is a 1980 memo from the PHS which was issued as a result of the fiasco in Chatsworth, California, where upwards of nine patients in cryonic suspension were allowed to thaw out and decompose by the now defunct Cryonics Society of California. A copy of that Memo is included at the end of this article. Our thanks to Alcor member Keith Henson who doggedly pursued the PHS Necrocrats until they provided him with a copy of it.

All attempts at reasoning with and negotiating with the PHS Medicrats has proven futile. They were unwilling to even consider giving their input on model legislation to address the concerns raised by cryonic suspension.

(return to contents)

VII. Keystone Coroners

From CRYONICS magazine October 1988 (by Mike Darwin, page 8,10-12)

The stories we are about to tell you are almost unbelievable. As close as we are to them, we have found an element of black humor in them. Whether or not you share in our dark laughter, each of the two incidents we are about to relate goes a long, long way to explaining why the Dora Kent case unfolded as it did, and why Alcor was assaulted by the Riverside County Coroner as it was. There almost certainly is no one simple explanation for the Coroner's actions, but as the following stories will point up, there are certainly three fairly straightforward underlying ones: incompetence, stupidity, and projection.

The first story broke in July and concerned the mistaken cremation of a suspected homicide victim by the Riverside Coroner's office. The victim's body was found after several days in the desert near Cathedral City (In the Palm Springs area) and was brought into the Riverside Coroner's office for autopsy.

... We understand Supervising Deputy Coroner Dan Cupido was on-duty at the time the mistaken release and cremation took place. Indeed, not only was Mr. Cupido on duty, we understand that he was present in the autopsy room and personally witnessed and authorized the release. The release was unusual in that it involved decomposed remains and was carried out during business hours when four autopsies were being conducted at the same time. Reportedly it is the Coroner's Office's policy not to release decomposed remains during business hours because of the odor and health hazard this represents. Reportedly Mr. Cupido released the remains as a favor to a friend at the mortuary.

In an attempt to save money, the Coroner's office had previously discontinued the use of bright red body bags for identifying homicide victims. They were relying instead on red toe and bag tags, which in this case were reportedly both illegible and not the appropriate color. The body was released without making a proper identification (i.e., looking inside the bag), as is mandatory.

As a consequence, the woman's remains were released in the place of a male decedent who was also decomposed and found in the same general area, but who was not a homicide victim. When the police officers in charge of the case showed up later in the day to be present during the autopsy, what they found was the male decedent's remains.

... Of course, it goes without saying that in the absence of an autopsy report it will be problematic at best to establish the cause, let alone the mode of death. Mr. Cupido was subsequently suspended for three days.

Mr. Cupido's name is an important one to remember. He was responsible for the so-called investigation into Alcor, and in his capacity of Supervising Deputy Coroner is also responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Coroner's office.

If the body mix-up and the ensuing melee of charges and counter-charges doesn't establish what kind of Keystone Cops run the Coroner's office ... Mr. Cupido's more recent problems entitled Coroner's Official Sued In Will Dispute should help.

... we went down to the Probate desk of the Superior Court and requested a copy of the probate file on former Deputy Coroner Jack Cook — the man whose estate Cupido is being accused of having improperly appropriated. What would Mr. Cook's will be like, we wondered. Especially since Mr. Cook's estate is reportedly valued at $536,252.48!

... The will consists of two scratch-pad-sized pieces of paper which have been stapled to an 8 1/2 by 11 inch-sized sheet. The will is in two different hands and is completely hand- written. The signature is a shaky scrawl near the bottom of the second sheet.

The lawsuit filed by Mr. Cook's relatives alleges that the will was written in the hand of Mr. Cupido. If this is so, it tells us much about Mr. Cupido's level of intellectual sophistication — or lack of it. Every one of the three sentences in the will has serious errors in either grammar, punctuation, or spelling. There are other problems: In California, a will need not be witnessed if it is holographic — that is, written entirely in the testator's own handwriting. But if the signature is Mr. Cook's, then the rest of the will is obviously in someone else's hand. Therefore, it is not holographic, and requires witnesses. It is witnessed, but at least two of the three witnesses on the will, including Mr. Cupido, are beneficiaries named in the will: a decided no-no under California law.

... Leaving aside the morality of doing what Mr. Cupido did, the question arises about the stupidity of it. The will is pathetic: a reasonably bright 12-year old could have done better... How stupid, base, and incompetent could Mr. Cupido be?

(return to contents)

VIII. Dora Kent Case Update

From CRYONICS magazine December 1988 (page 2,3)

By the time you read this, three Alcor Suspension Team members who were present during the cryonic suspension of Dora Kent will probably have been questioned before the Riverside County Grand Jury. The District Attorney's office recently subpoenaed most of the Suspension Team members who were present during Mrs. Kent's suspension to appear before the Grand Jury. Under advice of counsel, all invoked their 5th Amendment rights and declined to answer questions. As was expected, the D.A. granted immunity to three of the twelve people and can thus compel them to testify (or risk indefinite incarceration for contempt of court charges). Giving of immunity in this situation is designed to strip away the 5th Amendment protection normally accorded people in the hopes that those compelled to testify will incriminate others on the Suspension Team. What was unexpected was that the immunity was not complete immunity (so-called "transactional immunity"), but rather, "use immunity" which still leave open the possibility of prosecution for team members testifying.

The use of use immunity in such a case is highly controversial and it remains to be seen whether: a) the court will grant it, and; b) it stands up to judiciary review if it is granted.

We have been told that the Grand Jury will not be making a decision to proceed with criminal charges. Instead, the District Attorney will make that determination. The Grand Jury is being used only as a discovery tool to question Team members about the suspension of Dora Kent.

What the outcome of all this will be is impossible to say. As our attorney has pointed out, a major objective of Deputy D.A. Curtis Hinman (who is in charge of the Kent case) is to "redefine" what constitutes homicide. Hinman has repeatedly commented to the media that "resuscitating" a no-code patient and then freezing him or her is, in his opinion, murder. Whether Mr. Hinman will be able to persuade others in the D.A.'s office of this novel interpretation of the law is an open question. We can only wait and see.

The bottom line is that three additional attorneys have had to be retained (to represent each team member granted "immunity") at a considerable additional expense.

On another front, the Riverside County Coroner has settled with Saul Kent in Saul's suit against the Coroner's office. In exchange for Saul dropping his demand for reimbursement of legal expenses amounting to $25,600, the Coroner agreed to halt the search for Dora Kent's head and agreed not to disturb the other Alcor patients in suspension. In essence, the settlement makes permanent the Preliminary Restraining Order granted on February 1, 1988...

(return to contents)

IX. Legal Update

From CRYONICS magazine October 1989 (page 7,8,11)

Well, if anyone thought government harassment of Alcor was over with, think again. In early September, we received word through a leak at the Board of Medical Quality Assurance (BMQA) that the Riverside County District Attorney's Office was preparing to file 19 counts of felony practice of medicine without a license against several Alcor Suspension Team members. The physician who accepted the anatomical gift on Dora Kent and who was her treating physician in the last days of her life was also reportedly going to be charged with "aiding and abetting the practice of medicine without a license."

What is interesting in all of this is that we have been told that a significant number of the 19 counts are for things done after Dora Kent was legally dead! Furthermore, we were informed by the Board of Medical Quality Assurance investigator handling the case that they intended to bring charges relative to cryonic suspensions where independent physicians first pronounced the patient legally dead before Alcor did anything! It appears that cryonics just got reclassified as medicine. That's the good news. The bad news is that we've all been practicing medicine without a license! Oh well, every silver lining must have a cloud.

It seems the California medical community wants to have it both ways. Even after they give up and pronounce you dead (a situation which normally rather abruptly ends the doctor-patient relationship!) anything we do to you is still considered medicine.

... On the Immunity front, we won solidly... Deputy D.A. Curt Hinman's performance was so bad in court it is hard to put into words. Use immunity can be considered a contractual agreement between prosecutors and witnesses. Mr. Hinman had considerable problems with this idea, insisting that his offer must be accepted by the Alcor witnesses, as would be the case with the broader, court-sanctioned transactional immunity. Finally, the presiding judge explained to him, "But they didn't agree to testify, Mr. Hinman. They told you to stick it in your ear." After which Hinman launched into another cycle of argument, as if repetition could make his point. And was again counseled by the judge as to where his offer for limited immunity had been placed. Eventually, the Court got tired of the repetition, and cut him off.

By contrast, Alcor pro bono attorney Ephram Margolin performed beautifully. The decision by the Appellate Court mirrored his brief almost exactly.

Hinman, in a remarkable display of misplaced optimism (or desperation), asked the court for a rehearing. It was summarily denied. Seeking even more punishment, he has decided to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the State of California. One shudders at the thought of our tax dollars at "work" in this useless and destructive fashion.

(return to contents)

X. DHS Lawsuit Update

From CRYONICS magazine December 1990 (page 3)

There's good news and there's bad news. First the good news: On October 25th, Judge Mu¤oz signed his judgment and injunction sealing our victory in the DHS case. As was expected, Ms. Chung's attempts to get the judge to reverse or modify his decision were unsuccessful. The order was signed and was exactly what we wanted.

So that's the good news. The bad news? Well, the bad news is that on November 8th, we received a call from a prospective member in Canada who had called the DHS and inquired about the legality of cryonics. Guess what? He was told "cryonics is illegal in the state of California and you cannot be placed into cryonic suspension by Alcor." Incredible! When further inquiries were made, we were informed that the DHS intended to appeal the case and did not intend to comply with Judge Munoz's order in the meantime.

Sure enough, when Alcor President Carlos Mondragon went down to the DHS Vital Statistics Division in Riverside to file for a VS-9 on one of our whole-body patients, he was told by Riverside County Vital Statistics chief Virginia Whitney that "on instructions from Sacramento, no VS-9 was to be issued." Virginia even obliged us by repeating this information into a tape recorder so that it is admissible as evidence.

Since the DHS has not yet filed an appeal, what they had done is put themselves in contempt of court. Alcor's attorney David Epstein explained this in a faxed letter to A.G. Tammy Chung, the DHS attorney. We received word on November 15th that Ms. Whitney's instructions had been changed. We were invited to go get our form VS-9s. Alas, they would only give us the form if we agreed to list ourselves as a "cemetery" (totally unacceptable). Thus it seems Mr. Mitchell is still in contempt of court. This is the kind of behavior that betters our chances collecting legal fees and sanctions in the long run.

(return to contents)

XI. Whatever Happened to the Riverside Coroner?

From CRYONICS magazine December 1990 (by Mike Darwin, page 3-4)

As many of our readers no doubt know, in January of 1988 Alcor's facilities were raided by representatives of the Riverside County Coroner's Office, amid accusations that we had murdered one of our Suspension Members by decapitation. Five staff members and one visitor to the facility were handcuffed and arrested for the better part of a day. The Coroner's deputies threatened to thaw out not just the patient that they were looking for, Dora Kent, but all of Alcor's patients. They seized all of the patient records, computers, and magnetic media in the facility. They also threatened to cost Jerry Leaf his job as a thoracic (chest) surgery researcher at UCLA and to destroy Alcor. A few days later, they returned to the facility, tore the place apart, and hauled off about a third of our furniture and operating room equipment, claiming it was "property stolen from the UCLA Medical Center."

After being dragged through the press as murderers and thieves, we have been experiencing some vindication. We got our property back, we got the patient records back, and the patients themselves are safe, including Dora Kent. However, Jerry Leaf did lose his job, and the damage to his reputation as a researcher has made him unemployable in his chosen career path after 13 years of work in this area.

... The November 6 elections seemed a cashing in of bygones. Chief Deputy Coroner Scotty Hill won what the Riverside Press-Enterprise called "an easy victory" over Ray Carrillo. (A two-to-one landslide achieved with a much smaller election budget than Carrillo had.) ...

(return to contents)

XII. DHS Update

From CRYONICS magazine January 1991 (page 2)

As we return to another episode of Kafka Comes To Alcor, we find the DHS still not issuing VS-9s or death certificates (surprise, surprise, surprise!). The latest round involved them agreeing to issue VS-9s provided that we agreed to be listed as a cemetery. We declined. They countered with an offer to list us as a "cryonics facility" but not allow us to check off the "scientific use" box, which is normally used by organizations that qualify under the California Anatomical Gift Act (CAGA) to accept donees (and under which we believe we qualify). We declined again. Last we heard they were mulling over our refusals and considering how to redesign the VS-9.

They have until 2 January, 1991 to appeal Judge Munoz's ruling affirming our right to use the CAGA and to have the legal right to cryonic suspension.

(return to contents)

XIII. California Appeal Court Upholds Alcor's rights to UAGA

(From Alcor Website) Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Inc., et al. v. Mitchell June 1992

9 Cal.Rptr.2d 572, 7 Cal.App.4th 1287 (1992)

By Justice Gates, with concurrence by Justices Nott and Manella

Appealing from the judgment entered in favor of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Inc. (Alcor), and two of its members, the Department of Health Services, its Office of the State Registrar and their respective heads (referred to collectively as DHS unless otherwise indicated), seek a determination from this court "that death certificates and disposition permits cannot be issued for bodies of persons who have designated Alcor as a donee pursuant to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act [Health & Saf. Code, 7150 et seq.] and have directed Alcor to store their bodies in cryonic suspension."

As set forth in Alcor's first amended complaint, "Cryonic suspension (also known as cryogenic suspension) is a process by which the legally dead but biologically viable body of a person who has been ill or injured is preserved at low temperatures until such time as medical science may be capable of reviving the person and implementing effective cure or treatment of the illness or injury. Since 1964, the practice of cryonic suspension has become widespread, with organizations formed in major cities to provide cryonic suspension for their members. The first reported cryonically suspended person has been maintained in that state since 1967."

The question here tendered is peculiarly unique and extremely narrow in scope and, hopefully, our affirmance of the challenged judgment will completely preclude this particular issue from arising again in the future. That is to say, we merely examine the propriety of the trial court's decision concerning DHS' recent actions which have resulted in the denial of death certificates (Health & Saf. Code, 10375) and disposition permits (Health & Saf. Code, 10376) to Alcor members who have been placed in cryonic suspension. Neither side contends these individuals are not legally dead (Health & Saf. Code, 7180) and otherwise entitled to death certificates. Their conflict relates solely to the obtainment of disposition permits.

The trial court has expressed no opinion on the validity of cryonics or the manner in which it should be regulated, nor do we. The initial determination of such issues, at least in the absence of conflict, is clearly an administrative or legislative function.

Even DHS, despite its determined efforts to render Alcor's operations illegal, asserts "this case is not an attempt to prohibit cryonic suspension activity." In fact, until questioned by us, in both its opening and closing briefs, DHS expressed a willingness to grant Alcor all necessary documentation if it would but utilize subterfuge to disguise its actual structure and the true nature of its operations. By way of example, although subsequently recanted, DHS in its reply brief had stated: "[T]he Department has encouraged Alcor to obtain a license as a cemet[e]ry or mausoleum or appoint another entity, such as a research institute, hospital, or physician, as the donee under the U.A.G.A., so that Alcor's members can have their bodies or body parts cryonically suspended legitimately. However, Alcor has refused to do so."

Turning to the specific contention at hand, section 10375 of the Health and Safety Code provides: "No person shall dispose of human remains unless (a) there has been obtained and filed with a local registrar a death certificate, as provided in chapter 5 (commencing with Section 10200) of this division [Division 9, Vital Statistics], and (b) there has been obtained from a local registrar a permit for disposition."

Appellant Office of the State Registrar is charged with executing the state's vital statistic statutes (Health & Saf. Code, 10000 et seq.), including those pertaining to disposition permits. (Health & Saf. Code, 10375 et seq.) It also has supervisory power over local registrars to insure uniform compliance with the requirements of vital statistics laws. (Health & Saf. Code, 10026.)

Health and Safety Code section 10376 identifies three permissible methods of treating with human remains for the purose of the disposition permit: interment in a cemetery; cremation; and burial at sea. Viewed merely semantically, under the Health and Safety Code's circular definitions (see Health & Saf. Code, 7003, 7005, 7009, 7012, 7015) Alcor might possibly be said to be operating a mausoleum. However, such statutory language was aptly characterized in Cemetery Board v. Telophase Soiety of America (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 847, 855, as "virtually nonsensical," and neither party, albeit for different reasons, now wishes Alcor to be so considered.

DHS has also recognized "scientific use," a disposition associated with the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act as an additional means of legally dealing with human remains. An anatomical gift of all or part of individual's body may be made to the following donees:

"(1) A hospital, physician, surgeon, or procurement organization, for transplantation, therapy, medical or dental education, research, or advancement of medical or dental science.

"(2) An accredited medical or dental school, college, or university for education, research, or advancement of medical or dental science.

"(3) A designated individual for transplantation or therapy needed by that individual." (Health & Saf. Code, 7153, subd. (a).)

For a number of years Alcor was apparently permitted to operate under that act. However, in March 1988, the Chief of the Office of the State Registrar, David Mitchell, in a letter making explicit reference to Alcor, advised the Riverside County Coroner that burial permits may not be issued for cryonic suspension. Mitchell further admonished that state law provides for "storage" of a dead body only if it is used "for scientific purposes or qualifies as a gift under the Anatomical Gift Act" and pointed out that disposing of a dead body anywhere in the city or county, except within a cemetery, is a misdemeanor.

Three months later, in response to an inquiry from the Riverside County Department of Health, Mitchell stated if Alcor was storing bodies or body parts in its facility, it would be "guilty of a misdemeanor" and "should be reported to the local District Attorney for investigation and prosecution as appropriate."

Shortly thereafter, DHS, through its Office of the State Registrar and pursuant to its supervisory authority over local registrars, issued a "Handbook for Local Registrars of Birth and Death" which instructed local registrars that disposition of human remains by cryonic suspension does not constitute "scientific use" within the meaning of this Uniform Anatomical Gift Act. The 1990 version of this book, the most recent one available at the time the instant summary judgment motion was heard, similarly specified: "The holding of human bodies in cryonic suspension does not constitute the operation of a cemetery, nor does arranging to have one's body so placed meet the scientific use requirements of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act."

The authority cited for this statement was 63 Ops.Atty.Gen. 879 (1980). In its representation of DHS on this appeal, the Attorney General still purports to rely upon that opinion despite making suggestions which are totally inconsistent with the views it expressed there. Of course, such an opinion, even when correct, a debatable proposition here, would not be binding on this court. (California Assn. of Psychology Providers v. Rank (1990) 51 Cal.3d 1, 17.)

DHS now advises that it subsequently altered its posture, concluding "it does not have the authority to determine whether or not cryogenic suspension of dead bodies or body parts constitutes valid science research and that such question should appropriately be decided by the Legislature." However, this shift in position does not aid Alcor since DHS refuses to recognize Alcor as a "procurement organization" for purposes of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, the donee category into which Alcor might possibly fit.

A procurement organization is defined as "a person licensed, accredited, or approved under the laws of any state or by the State Department of Health Services for procurement, distribution, or storage of human bodies or parts." (Health & Saf. Code, 7150.1, subd. (j).)

DHS points out that Alcor has not been "licensed, accredited or approved" to function as a procurement organization, though obviously Alcor could not possibly have done so since DHS has not established any procedure or mechanism which would permit Alcor or any other organization even to make application therefor. DHS then announces its intention to await "further guidance from the Legislature prior to even considering Alcor as a possible procurement organization." It argues that Health and Safety Code section 7150.1 is merely a definitional provision.

Understandably, the trial court declined to accept this "catch-22" approach which exposes Alcor to potential criminal liability. Therefore, it "permanently enjoined and ... ordered [DHS] to desist from prohibiting, instructing or directing against, or otherwise interfering with, the registration of deaths or the issuance of disposition permits for the bodies of persons who have designated Alcor as a donee pursuant to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (Health and Safety Code 7150 et seq.) and who have directed that Alcor place their bodies in cryonic suspension, provided that ... [i]n the event and at such time as [DHS] implement[s] an otherwise lawful licensing and registration system for procurement organizations pursuant to the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, plaintiff, Alcor will be subject to lawful and reasonable licensing and registration requirements."

Under the circumstances, particularly in the absence of any evidence that Alcor's operations pose an actual threat to the public health, we agree with the injunctive relief ordered by the trial court. We need not determine whether each of the court's individual findings was correct. It is enough that we agree DHS' sudden and unexplained about-face with respect to Alcor's status as a donee under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act cannot be premised upon Alcor's failure to secure a license as a procurement organization when DHS has failed to establish a mechanism for obtaining such a license. Such conduct is, at the very least, inconsistent with the DHS' basic duty to administer and enforce the statutes pertaining to the registration of death certificates and issuance of disposition permits.

In that regard, DHS frankly acknowledges that its "Office of the State Registrar [is] charged with the duty ... of registering births, deaths, marriages, etc." but declares it is "at [a] loss as to how to register the status" of cryonically suspended persons without first receiving "specific guidance from the Legislature." However, like the trial court, we take a more sanguine view of appellants' abilities. In any event, if, in carrying out the trial court's mandate DHS proceeds in a fashion contrary to that envisioned by the Legislature because of lack of statutory guidance, that body will no doubt take corrective action.

DHS also poses a number of what it characterizes as "serious questions," e.g.: "Should cryonically suspended people be considered 'dead' or should a separate category of 'suspended' people be created? How should such people be registered in official records? ... [W]hat happens to the estate and the assets of the 'decedent' after the decedent is put in cryonic suspension? ... [W]hat would happen to such estate and assets if and when cryonic suspension is successful and decedent is restored to life? Whose identity is the person to assume or be assigned and what of the record of the person's death? Alcor also stores body parts, such as human heads and hands. In such cases, whose identity will the suspended heads and hands assume upon their restoration; the identity of the original owner of the body part or the identity of the new body to which the body part will be attached?"

These are, of course, but a few of the presently imaginable conundrums which could arise should Alcor at some future time actually succeed in reviving the currently dead. Nonetheless, we are confident that those persons who will then head our various branches of government will be far wiser than we and entirely capable of resolving such dilemmatic issues without our assistance.

The judgment is affirmed.

(return to contents)

XIV. Out-of-Court Settlement for False Arrest

From CRYONICS magazine September 1992 (by Mike Perry, page 5)

The greatest crisis in the history of Alcor, and one of the major turning points of cryonics, began in December 1987, when 83-year-old Dora Kent was suspended. A retired dressmaker, and mother of longtime cryonics activist Saul Kent, Mrs. Kent had been ailing for several years. When she came down with pneumonia and death seemed imminent, a fateful decision was made to bring her into the facility before she deanimated. This was medically sound but politically pretty dicey, as events proved. The suspension itself (a neuro or head only) was fairly routine (in some ways in fact, the best ever, since there was no waiting time for transport). But afterward the local coroner became interested, launched an investigation, autopsied the headless body, decided the mode of death was "natural causes," reversed himself, demanded and was refused the head for autopsy, accused the Alcor team of murder, etc. Alcor personnel, who refused to disclose the location of this neuropatient when questioned, were put in handcuffs and detained for several hours before being released, and this was but one incident in a long campaign of intimidation and harassment. The case was concluded only in 1991, by a tacit admission of wrongdoing by the Coroner's office and an out of court settlement of some $90,000 which was divided among the six who were detained that day (Jan. 7, 1988) and their attorneys.

From CRYONICS magazine November 1992 (by Mike Perry, page 7)

(Many of us hadn't been told we were being arrested or why, or advised of our rights, etc. Principal credit for the suit goes to David Pizer, who furnished a $6,000 deposit for legal fees.)

(return to contents)

XV. The Death Certificate Problem Gets Solved

From CRYONICS magazine July/August 1993 (by Steve Bridge, page 14,15)

... Two of our whole body patients (Cynthia Pilgeram, suspended in 1990, and Richard Clair Jones, suspended in 1988) still did not have certified Death Certificates, because the state had refused to issue Death Certificates to cryonics patients at the times these patients were placed into suspension. When I tried to re-apply for those Certificates earlier this month, I ran into another series of barriers from the State Registrar's office in the Department of Health Services, in the person of Earl Renken, the Registrar with (supposedly) the most knowledge about cryonics.

Mr. Renken acknowledged that Alcor had been given a blanket court decision that Alcor patients had to be given Death Certificates. However, it was his Department's interpretation (later it turned out it was his own interpretation) that this did not waive the legal requirement that a specific court order is required to register a death which took place longer than one year ago. He went on to say that he understood we might be in a "Catch-22 situation" since it wasn't really our fault that the death certificate was not issued. He understood why the problem happened since, he said, when this death occurred, "cryonics was illegal."

I pointed out to Mr. Renken that he was incorrect, that his Department had claimed cryonics was illegal, but the court had disagreed. He stated "that was not our interpretation of the court order." He then stated that the only way to get a Death Certificate on any death older than one year was to get a court order and to process a VS-109, "Delayed Registration Form." He said the Department would alter that position only if a Court or Tammy Chung told them to do so.

After our attorneys talked to Deputy Attorney General Tammy Chung, the cooperation got better immediately. Ms. Chung had already been given a dressing down by Judge Munoz two years ago when the DHS had refused to certify the Death Certificate on Jerry Leaf, and she was highly anxious to dispose of this problem. When our attorneys brought up these problems at the Fee Motion in court, Judge Munoz was obviously irritated at the State. Ms. Chung told Judge Munoz that Mr. Renken had been "scolded" for this and had been instructed to make no decisions for the State in this regard but to refer any questions to the Department's Attorney.

Munoz said that if Alcor did have any more problems getting Death Certificates, he would take it very personally and he would invite Alcor's attorney to prepare contempt charges. And he would make sure that Alcor's attorney fees for those actions were paid by the State.

We have now received the Death Certificate (and Disposition Permit) on Mrs. Pilgeram and the forms for Dick Jones are in preparation as I write this.

(return to contents)

XVI. Alcor's Previous Victory Does Not Apply to Other Cryonics Organizations

From CRYONICS magazine July/August 1993 (by Steve Bridge, page 15)

While Alcor Life Extension Foundation shouldn't have this problem (obtaining death certificates) anymore, the answer is less bright for other cryonic suspension organizations in California. In my conversation with Mr. Renken, he said that the Department of Health Services also interpreted the Court Order as applying only to Alcor and that other cryonics groups in California could not obtain Death Certificates on their patients. I was amazed at this statement since the court order clearly stated that the DHS had an obligation to issue Death Certificates on legally dead individuals.

When I questioned Attorney David Epstein on this, he wrote [bracketed words are added by me]:

"While I appreciate the importance of the universal application of the Roe vs. Mitchell ruling, the comment by Mr. Renken that Judge Munoz' order applied only to Alcor Life Extension Foundation is one of his few statements that technically is correct. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Alcor, Jones Jones [Dick, listed as "John Roe" when the case began], Merkle [Ralph], and Henson [Keith], the latter two as individuals and on behalf of all Alcor members. It is a well established legal principle that, except in special circumstances such as class actions, judgments are directly binding only as to the parties appearing and litigating the matter before the court."

He went on to say, "Other cryonics organizations benefit from the Roe vs. Mitchell opinion in that it establishes a precedent. Thus, if they had a dispute with the Registrar's Office and could establish that they were similarly situated to Alcor's position in Roe vs. Mitchell, the State would be hard-pressed to justify a failure to follow the Roe vs. Mitchell precedent. If, on the other hand, the State could demonstrate a material distinction, the State might not be bound by Roe vs. Mitchell as to that other organization."

I have sent the full text of Mr. Epstein's letter to the other cryonics organizations in California, so they may be prepared in case the State really wants to waste more of the taxpayers money on cases like this. Maybe they will be lucky and find that it was just Mr. Renken's imagination running wild again.

(return to contents)