Court Gives Custody of Grandmother's Frozen Head to Cryonics Company

Scranton said Robbins had long planned on freezing her head in hopes technology would one day allow her to be revived. When she signed up with Alcor in 2006, she took out a $50,000 annuity and named Alcor as the beneficiary to cover the harvesting and storage.

"She was always fascinated by those types of things," he said. "I think it's been said that she had a desire that if she could live again she would come back as a scientist or a researcher."

Robbins was diagnosed with cervical cancer in December and tests showed that the cancer had spread to most of her vital organs, but not her brain.

She began radiation and signed up for a cancer-treatment study. But too weak to participate in the treatment, Robbins resigned herself to the fact that she was going to lose her battle and contacted Alcor.

Darlene Robbins said Alcor told her mother that they wanted her to move to Phoenix to die, something Robbins did not want to do. She asked that Alcor send personnel to assist her, Darlene Robbins said, but Alcor suggested her hospice carry out the lengthy list of after-death protocols that the company requires to prep the body for freezing, including administering a cocktail of medications and performing CPR once death has already occurred to keep oxygen flowing.

"Hospice said it was not within their power to do that. They didn't have the medications," Darlene Robbins said. "It's against their charter, which is to help people die with dignity and peace."

Two days before she died, Robbins changed the beneficiary on her annuity policy so the money would go to her family, an act witnessesed by family and non-family, Scranton said. The lawyer said that others heard Robbins say that she no longer wished for her head to be frozen.

Darlene Robbins said she contacted Alcor to let them know her mother had changed her mind and "they hung up on me."

Alcor, Scranton said, rejected Robbins' verbal cancellation of the contract, "saying oral revocations don't count. That it has to be in writing."

Besides battling the Robbins family over the contract to preserve her head, Wolf said recently that Alcor could not rule out a legal effort to have the original $50,000 annuity reinstated as well.

Family Fights Cryonics Company to Keep Mother's Head

Once the family realized Alcor was going to fight them for their mother's head, they agreed to allow the head to be packed in ice, while the rest of the body was refrigerated per normal post-mortem storage. The body remains intact.

But even that is questionable, Scranton said, because the ice wasn't brought in until about 24 hours after Robbins had died.

By Alcor's own list of lengthy procedures to ensure proper freezing after death, Darlene Robbins said, Mary Robbins' body is no longer viable because it was not prepared according to those guidelines.

"What they are going to do with the body I have no idea," she said. ""What are they going to do, put her in a box and just drive her down to Arizona?"

Wolff said that even though the company's preferred preservation techniques were not followed in the hours after Robbins death, the company's scientists have said cryopreservation is still possible.

"She's been on dry ice at a super-cooled temperature, which allows for cryopreservation," he said.

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