Son Demands $1 Million and Father's Head Jun 18, 2019 10:16:18 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Jun 18, 2019 10:16:18 GMT -5
Son Demands $1 Million and Father’s Head
A Montana man is counter-suing Alcor Life Extension Foundation – which counts Boston Red Sox icon Ted Williams among its “patients” – for $1 million, charging the cryonics organization improperly removed his father’s head. “They chopped his head off, burned his body, put it in a box and sent it to my house,” Kurt Pilgeram told AZCentral.
Cryonics is the process by which human bodies – or in some cases heads – are maintained in a frozen state until science has advanced to the point they can be reanimated. It goes without saying that no one knows if this is actually possible, or ever will be possible. The not-for-profit Alcor was founded in 1972, froze its first body in 1976 and, according to the company’s website, 170 people and 33 pets are now stored at its facility.
Pilegram’s complex case began when his father, biochemist Laurence Pilgeram, died four years ago. The elder Pilgeram, a long-time supporter of cryonics, had even given a speech on the controversial practice at a conference in 1971. However, his family claims he wasn’t a fan of “neurocryopreservation,” preservation of the head alone, and expected that his entire body would be frozen. Court documents indicate that at age 67, Pilgeram signed an agreement with Alcor to be cryogenically suspended until medical science could revive him. He opted for whole body suspension, but the agreement contains a clause indicating Alcor cannot guarantee it will be practical or possible to follow a member’s wishes. “He believed in cryonics, but he didn’t believe in mutilation,” his brother Jim insisted. “He made it awful plain to them people that he did not want to be just a head.”
On April 10, 2015, 90-year-old Laurence Pilgeram collapsed on the sidewalk outside his home in Goleta, California. Unfortunately, April 10 was a Friday and though Kurt Pilgeram alleges he attempted to contact Alcor, the Arizona facility didn’t learn of the death until the following week. Despite his desire to be preserved – as clearly indicated on the Alcor bracelet he was wearing – the elderly man’s body was transported to a medical examiner’s office in Santa Barbara, where it remained until Monday morning.
Alcor claims it was not informed of the death until the body was released to a mortuary, where it was immediately covered in dry ice. Two of the company’s employees performed a “neuro separation” at the mortuary and then sent Pilgeram’s remains to Alcor in Arizona for “continued cool down,” which began April 15, 2015.
In order for a whole-body cryonics preservation to be successful, the body has to be chilled almost immediately. On its website, Alcor recommends that members who are near death use a hospice near the Arizona facility so that staff can intervene promptly after death. Patients who cannot be nearby should be “frozen directly in dry ice (‘straight freezing’) for shipment to Alcor and final cooling.”
Kurt Pilgeram claims Alcor promised his father’s entire body would be preserved and the company “arbitrarily, fraudulently and in bad faith” severed the elder Pilgeram’s head and then cremated the body instead of delivering the entire remains to the family. Furthermore, “inconclusive” tests have suggested the cremated remains may not be entirely his father’s, the lawsuit continues. Pilgeram alleges elder abuse, infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, unfair business practices and intentional misrepresentation on the part of Alcor.
James Arrowood, Alcor’s lawyer, says it was possible to reach Alcor during the weekend at the time of Pilgeram’s death and argues the facility wasn’t advised of Pilgeram’s demise quickly enough to preserve the entire body. He contends “the fault of Pilgeram or others besides Alcor” caused the alleged damages and Kurt Pilgeram “failed to use reasonable diligence” to mitigate the alleged damages. Moreover, he cites the fact the father signed a contract granting Alcor license to ultimately make the decision as to how the body should be preserved. “The contract between Alcor and Laurence Pilgeram gives Alcor full discretion to convert Pilgeram from full body preservation to a neurocryopreservation,” he insists. “The reasons why that occurred will come out during the trail.”
The case is complex. Alcor initially sued Kurt Pilgeram in 2017 after he allegedly attempted to stop his father’s life insurance from paying the not-for-profit cryonics organization, which depends on such payouts for funding. The insurance company had previously asked the courts to force litigation between the parties to settle the dispute as to who should receive the insurance money. Pilgeram then counter-sued, asking for $1 million in damages and the frozen head of his father.
Arrowood says the science for preserving a head is the same as that for a full body. Alcor charges $200,000 to freeze an entire body, while freezing a head is a mere $80,000.
The manner in which Alcor preserves a body, or head, is by removing all water, which expands when frozen, from the body and replacing fluids with a “cryoprotectant.” Once the procedure is completed, the temperature is lowered with nitrogen to a “vitrified” state, i.e., a “stable ice-free state.” Eventually, the body is cooled to -202 F. and placed upside-down in a metal vat until it can be revived.
The case is set for trial next year.
Sources: Mack Lamoureux, Vice, June 13, 2019; Louis Casiano, Fox News, June 12, 2019; and Oliver Messer, The Daily Beast, September 10, 2018.