March 1, 2010
The frozen remains of a 71-year-old Colorado Springs woman will remain packed in dry ice for 72 hours while her family decides whether to appeal a magistrate’s decision to turn her body over to an Arizona non-profit for cryogenic preservation.
El Paso County Magistrate Barbara L. Hughes ruled today that Mary Robbins’ last will and testament directs that her body be turned over to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, AZ.
Her daughter Darlene Robbins of Pueblo had contested the will, stating that her mother changed her mind about cryogenics while suffering terrible pain from terminal cancer a few days before her Feb. 9 death.
Hughes granted a 72-hour stay of her ruling to allow Robbins to take the case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.
“All I can say is that we’re disappointed,” lawyer Robert Scranton said as he and Darlene Robbins left El Paso County Probate Court after Hughes announced her decision.
Mike Robbins, grandson of Mary Robbins, called the ruling, “tragic.”
Eric Bentley, a lawyer for Alcor, welcomed the decision.
“We are very pleased that the written desires of Ms. Robbins will be fulfilled,” he stated in a prepared release handed out immediately after the ruling.
“This case has always been about the written intentions of Ms. Robbins,” he added. “Any suggestion that this case is about money is completely wrong.”
Part of the dispute involved a $50,000 annuity that Mary Robbins had set aside to cover the expenses of cryogenically preserving her head.
Alcor preserves human remains at very low temperatures on the assumption that future medical science will be able to revive the people who donate their bodies. Former Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams is among the people whose frozen remains are maintained by Alcor.
Alcor officials say they are ethically bound to honor the contract that Mary Robbins, a retired nurse, signed in 2006. They said they will not pursue Robbins for the money she had set aside for her preservation if the family does not contest the ruling.
Two days before her death, members of the Robbins family said she signed a document changing the beneficiary of her annuity away from Alcor and instead directed that the money go to her estate.
They testified that she did so after officials at a Colorado Springs hospice balked at admitting Robbins if they were required to follow certain protocols that Alcor follows to enhance the preservation of human remains.
But lawyers for Alcor called that a “tragic mistake” and said the non-profit would have waived the protocols if the family simply had called to let them know about the problem.
Lawyers for the family argued that by changing the insurance policy, Robbins revoked her 2006 will and cancelled her contract with Alcor.
But Hughes ruled that the will remained in effect and gave Alcor custody of Robbins’ body.
The body remains packed in dry ice in a local funeral home pending the outcome of the legal battle.
For more on this case go to the Sidebar blog at www.gazette.com