The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled a family must allow their brother’s body to be dug up so his head can be frozen. Longtime Burlington pharmacist Orville Richardson bought a membership with the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in 2004 to have his head cryogenically frozen when he died.
Documents signed with the company stated the procedure would be done with the hope of possibly bringing Richardson back to life in the future. He paid the company just over $53,000 for the membership. Orville’s brother David and sister Darlene took over his care in 2008 when he became ill. The informed Alcor they had taken over Orville’s care, but when he died in 2009 they didn’t notify the company and had his body embalmed and buried.
Two months after his death the family wrote Alcor and requested a refund of the $50,000 Orville had paid to have his head frozen. Alcor wrote back demanding Orville’s remains so it could follow through with the procedure, and offered to pay the costs associated with digging up and shipping his remains to the company. The brother and sister resisted and Alcor filed suit against them.
The district court ruled in favor of Orville’s siblings, but the Iowa Court of Appeals says Alcor is entitled to an injunction against the brother and sister. The court says despite the novelty of cryogenics, the case is dictated by longstanding traditions that defend the wishes of the person involved in their method and location of burial. And it is up to the courts to find a remedy when one party has violated another’s rights, which the brother and sister did to Alcor because they had known of Orville’s desire to have his head frozen and did not notify the company of his death.
The Appeals Court said it could not decide whether it had been too long since Orville had been buried to follow through with the procedure, because that would require scientific and philosophical judgments they are not prepared to make. They ordered the district court to move ahead and order Orville’s remains be disintered and sent to Alcor per their agreement.
See the entire ruling here: Burlington Cryogenic ruling. PDF