X-Message-Number: 148
From: Kevin Q. Brown
Subject: Legal Status of Cryonics 
Date: 2 Jan 1990

The January 1990 Venturist Monthly News has a very interesting article
concerning the legal status of cryonics, which I have appended below (with
permission from the editor Mike Perry).  Venturist Monthly News is the
publication of The Venturists [ messages 44, 49, 52, 68 ], an organization
"promoting manmade eternal life."  A year subscription (12 issues) costs
$8.00 US, $10.00 Canada, and $15.00 overseas, made payable to:
   The Venturists, POB 458, Wrightwood, CA 92397.
By the way, the Venturists will be holding their first California meeting
Sat. Jan. 6 at the Mountain View Lodge in Wrightwood, CA.  Call
(619) 249-3553 for details.
                                       - Kevin Q. Brown
                                       ...att!whscad1!kqb   <- new email
                                         <- address
Amazing New Legal Development
Venturist Monthly News, Vol. 2(1), Jan. 1990, #13
by Mike Perry (Editor)

Very recently there has been an amazing development on the legal front.
The action stems from the Dora Kent case, which involved the cryonic suspension
of Dora Kent (mother of longtime cryonics activist Saul Kent) by the Alcor
Life Extension Foundation on December 11, 1987.  Mrs. Kent, an 83-year old
bedfast woman suffering from severe dementia, was brought to the Alcor facility

while still alive and died there.  No physician was present when death occurred,
though some of the Alcor staff had sufficient medical training to competently
pronounce death.  The cryonic suspension procedure was started promptly after
death, and completed under better than usual conditions.  (Normally death
occurs under hospital conditions and there is some difficulty and delay while
the patient is transferred out to the facility where the suspension can
Since the suspension was done under unusual conditions, though, it resulted
in a coroner's investigation, one consequence of which was that Alcor was
apparently under threat of prosecution for "unlawful practice of medicine."
To forestall such prosecution Alcor asked for injunctive relief on grounds
that "such a threat of prosecution results in an impermissible chilling of
the constitutional right of the Adherents to have their bodies receive
direct physical ministrations before clinical death in order to achieve
cryonic suspension of their remains."  [Presiding Judge Robert J. Timlin's
summarization, in the ruling handed down on this case.  Other quotations in
this article are from this document.[1]]  The motion for relief was denied on
grounds that the state has an overriding interest "to alleviate pain during
any such suspension activities and to allow natural death during which period
a competent adherent may change his or her mind regarding such suspension."
This means that certain actions that would normally require a licensed
physician would not be exempted from this requirement in the case of cryonic
suspension.  Whether such actions might have been performed on Dora Kent
prior to her death, by non-physicians, would be a matter to be decided.
(At least, to the best of my knowledge, there is no evidence that bears up
under scrutiny that she was physically harmed or that her death was
unnaturally hastened, which considerably weakens any claim that wrongdoing
occurred.)  Thus the District Attorney (in Riverside County, California,
where Alcor is located) may still prosecute if he so chooses, though at
present there is no indication of any intention on his part to do so.
(In fact, Alcor attorney Christopher Ashworth now considers such
prosecution unlikely.)
The 25-page ruling prepared by Judge Timlin attempts to address all the
important issues bearing on this case.  On page 11 there is an amazing
paragraph that reads as follows (emphasis in the original):
  "This court concludes that the Adherents, including Dora Kent, under
  Article I, Section 1 of the California Constitution and the Fifth
  and Ninth amendments to the United States Constitution have a right
  to privacy, which includes the right to exercise control over his/her
  own body, and to determine whether to submit his/her body, or any
  portion thereof, including the brain, to PREMORTEM cryonic suspension.
  (In ruling on the application this court in no way comments directly
  or indirectly in the wisdom of such a choice.)"
In one fell swoop, it seems, the constitutional right to be cryonically
suspended is being recognized (a matter that itself is currently being
litigated by Alcor!), and moreover, the right to a PREMORTEM SUSPENSION!
There is a further comment on page 20:
  "It is understood that a person may at a particular time in his/her
  life desire death and no further medical treatment and thereupon
  exercise his/her right to refuse such medical treatment and allow
  nature to take its course.  But if a person desires to interfere
  with natural death processes by hastening it through suspension
  activities, (assumed to be natural methods,) the state has a
  compelling interest to require a licensed physician to perform
  those activities, which involve the practice of medicine, if for
  no other purpose than to alleviate pain and discomfort associated
  with such suspension activities."
Apparently, this is a reaffirmation of the opinion that a person has the
right to have death hastened "through suspension activities" (i.e. a
premortem suspension) provided said activities are performed by a licensed
physician!  The primary reason why a physician must perform the services is,
apparently, to insure that there is no undue pain or discomfort in the
Well, to put it mildly, all this seems way too good to be true (despite
the superficial defeat in denying Alcor's motion for injunctive relief).
Possibly the judge is assuming that only "natural methods" of hastening
death (refusal of food and fluids?) plus medication to relieve pain or
discomfort, must be used.  This would mean, for example, that a person
desiring a premortem suspension must still undergo a horrible and possibly
permanently damaging regimen of self-deprivation (as actually happened in
a recent cryonic suspension [2]), rather than being promptly suspended when
the time was right.  However this is not clearly spelled out in the ruling.
It is too early to tell, of course, what impact this ruling will have on 
gaining legal recognition for cryonics and in particular, on the vital
question of premortem cryonic suspensions.  It would seem, though, that
"some good must come of it."  What that precisely will be, I hope to
report in future issues of this newsletter.

1. "Ruling on application for preliminary injunction", Saul Kent et. al. v.
   Grover C. Trask II, Superior Court of the State of California, County of
   Riverside, Dec. 15, 1989, case #201022.
2. Darwin, M. "A Suspension in Detroit" Cryonics 10(5) 21 (May, 1989, pub.
   by Alcor Foundation, Riverside, CA)

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