Battle Underway For Head and Brain Of Colorado Springs Woman

This story reads like a science fiction novel... but it

Mary Robbins was a beautiful, vibrant and energetic woman until she died of cancer on February 9. Robbins, who was 71, made it clear to her daughter Darlene, as well as the rest of the family, that she wanted to take a leap of faith with her death. Upon last breath, Mary wanted her brain to be preserved using cryonics. In fact, in 2006 she signed a contract with an Arizona non-profit called Alcor to undergo its procedure when she died and donate her remains to charity.

This story reads like a science fiction novel... but it's all unfolding here in Colorado Springs. Right now, a legal battle is underway for the head and brain of a Colorado Springs woman who died last week.

Family members say Mary Robbins was a beautiful, vibrant and energetic woman until she died of cancer on February 9. Robbins, who was 71, made it clear to her daughter Darlene, as well as the rest of the family, that she wanted to take a leap of faith with her death. Upon her last breath, Mary wanted her brain to be preserved using cryonics. In fact, in 2006 she signed a contract with an Arizona non-profit called Alcor to undergo its procedure when she died and donate her remains to charity.

She signed paperwork agreeing that upon her death, $50,000 would also be paid to Alcor to cover the cost of the procedure. On its web site, Alcor says it uses ultra-cold temperatures to preserve human life, with the goal being that years later, when technology advances, she may be restored to good health.

Darlene says the family understood all of this and was willing to go along with it, until her final days.

"There's an extensive list of things that had to be done, including, you know, putting in a tube in your nose, putting in a tube in your throat, and you know an IV line and pushing medications," Darlene explains. Darlene says that's when her mother changed her mind and signed new paperwork, naming family members as her sole beneficiaries, not Alcor.

So instead of Alcor getting a $50,000 annuity to pay for the cryonics process, the family would get the money. Darlene says the family was preparing for Mary's funeral when the mortuary told them, Alcor was demanding they hand over her head.

"They've gone so far as to suggest a settlement with my attorney that they'll go into the mortuary and cut off her head and we could have the rest of the body," says Darlene.

Robert Scranton, the attorney for the family, says "I've never tried a case where we're talking about the dismemberment of a body and fighting over pieces of a body."

Eric Bentley, an attorney representing Alcor, has now asked a court to honor Mary's contract and issue a ruling, giving Alcor the right to Mary's head. He says the non-profit's goal is to carry out Mary's wishes, which she put in writing three and a half years ago.

Right now, Mary's body is at the mortuary on dry ice, with an Alcor representative monitoring the conditions. Bentley says the cryonics process is usually done right away, not days later, so Mary's future chances may have been compromised.

A hearing next week should decide who has the rights to Mary's remains - the family or Alcor.

Mary's family says they now wish they had consulted with Mary during those final days. Experts advise as difficult as it may be, have these discussions early on, so you have time to grieve without a legal battle.

Stay with 11 News for the latest on this story.


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  • by Chris Location: Canada on Mar 11, 2010 at 09:51 PM
    There are people who are religious and believe in some form of "life after death"; others are atheists and for then, there is "nothing" after death. Both groups deserve respect of their believes and wishes. I personally am member of the second group, and for me, the option of having my body frozen after death, with some chance to be woken up and see life 100 years later is rather fascinating. What do I have to loose? The problems are: my family member (if there are any left at that time) would loose $150000 or so in life insurance money, and they might not be happy with that. The other problem is if Alcor or whatever company takes care of the cryonization does not do their job. I wish there would be more factual comments or objective statements as Lisa's (assuming they are true) to help people find out, what they (and the family members left behind) really get into. I think Alcor should also provide some direct statements and explanations here.
  • by Mark on Mar 2, 2010 at 06:52 AM
    @ Anonymous: "You say its not cloning? Where do they get the body from then?" The emerging technology of organ printing could produce new human bodies. Organ printing hasn't gathered much public awareness yet, but it does exist, and it could scale up to the task of printing a new human body from the neck down: Printing body parts: Making a bit of me http://www.economist.com/science-technology/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15543683 One of the scientists in this field, Dr. Vladimir Mironov, published an article in "The Futurist" magazine a few years back about printing entire human bodies, though he didn't apply it to the problem of reviving cryonauts: Beyond cloning: toward human printing. (Requires download an html file): http://www.box.net/shared/static/p3idvxvlcb.html
  • by Luke Location: Salem, OR on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:09 PM
    Cryonics is about preserving the brain, not the head. The head comes along for the ride only because the brain is so fragile that it would get badly bruised if you took it out. Regrowing organs is something currently being done in the lab using adult stem cells and printers. It is not "cloning" because it does not involve implanting an egg cell or creating a baby. The personality and memories of a person is believed to be in the white and grey matter of the brain, much of which is preserved by cryonics. Mary Robbins may actually be alive in there, albeit unconscious and in great peril.
  • by BM Location: Detroit on Feb 22, 2010 at 09:22 PM
    Steve's right there was a case in Iowa, Alcor lost http://www.coloradoconnection.com/entertainment/story.aspx?id=325230 Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 8:06 a.m. BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has denied a request by an Arizona foundation to disinter a Burlington man so his remains could be preserved through a low-temperatures process known as cryonic suspension. Orville Richardson died in February at the age of 81. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, of Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a lawsuit that Richardson paid more than $50,000 in 2004 for a membership and wrote in his will that he wanted his body delivered to the group. Richardson's brother and sister said they would have nothing to do with the idea. On Wednesday, Judge John Linn ruled in favor of Richardson's siblings. The judge says they have the right to control the remains since Richardson had no surviving spouse, children, parents or
  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2010 at 08:29 PM
    Alcor lost the last one BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) - An Iowa judge has denied a request by an Arizona foundation to disinter a Burlington man so his remains could be preserved through a low-temperatures process known as cryonic suspension. Orville Richardson died in February at the age of 81. Alcor Life Extension Foundation, of Scottsdale, Ariz., said in a lawsuit that Richardson paid more than $50,000 in 2004 for a membership and wrote in his will that he wanted his body delivered to the group. Richardson's brother and sister said they would have nothing to do with the idea. On Wednesday, Judge John Linn ruled in favor of Richardson's siblings. The judge says they have the right to control the remains since Richardson had no surviving spouse, children, parents or grandchildren. http://www.coloradoconnection.com/entertainment/story.aspx?id=325230 Thursday, July 16, 2009 at 8:06 a.m.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2010 at 08:27 PM
    Tony's right on, time to get the fed in! These people are scary
  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2010 at 08:24 PM
    Hi Jim sounds like you know a lot about this, You say its not cloning? Where do they get the body from then? I agree its probaly not illegal if they have a license From the FDA, CEBA to handle Human tissuie. Do they have a license? The attorney says they are a medical organization; again are they a licensed facility? Don't think so, not one I could find. Thier attorney says there not a cult; I don't think you need a license for that?
  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2010 at 08:16 PM
    To James, I am sorry to hear about your mothers situation, sad. But in this story it was changed by the monther, yep when she was alive not after death.
  • by James Location: Denver on Feb 22, 2010 at 07:38 PM
    At my mother's deathbed, I took a break from her bedside. Her friend from work was came. When i got back the 'friend' grabbed a file folder and tried to leave. I grabbed the file folder out of the woman's hand. It was a blank 'change of beneficiary of life insurance' form. She claimed that they wanted to make sure my name was on the life policy... yet, as I said, the paper was blank w/o my name. I never saw her again. Neighbor died in Jan. His sister was standing on the doorstep w/ a cell phone waiting to hear the guy was dead - then they looted the place. (he had no family of his own). threw the cat into the snow. I knew the guy left her his VA life policy of like $25k to her, but she told me that she 'couldn't afford' to feed the cat or find it shelter and her brother said to 'throw it away'. Odd just 2 weeks prior he was cooking for it, had it for 6 years. 50k @ stake? Funny how these folks waited til after death to try 'fix' where it went...
  • by enoonsti on Feb 22, 2010 at 01:28 PM
    So Larry, you've moved on from "DesertRat" and "Anon1" to..... "Tony"? In Washington D.C? Anyways, quick question: when will you stop referring to cryonics as a "cult"? Both you and Melody have the bitter ex-employee vibe going on, but at least Melody is more constructive. And funnier, too.
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