Man sues body preservation firm and wants dad’s head returned
By Emily Mee, news reporter
A US man is suing a cryonics company for $1m (£790,000) and wants his father's head returned, claiming it wrongly cremated his father's body and sent the remains in the post.
Laurence Pilgeram had agreed to pay $120,000 (£95,000) to Alcor Life Extension Foundation to preserve his whole body indefinitely, in the hopes he could be brought back to life when medical technology advances.
However, his son, Kurt Pilgeram, alleges the company cremated his father's body and preserved only his head, sending the remains to his home in Montana.
"They chopped his head off, burned his body, put it in a box and sent it to my house," Mr Pilgeram told the Great Falls Tribune.
Alcor says it met its agreement with Laurence Pilgeram and a lawyer for the company argued the contract he had signed allowed Alcor to have the final decision on how Mr Pilgeram's body was preserved.
"It's explicit that Alcor has sole and absolute discretion to make that decision and that was signed by Laurence Pilgeram," the company's lawyer James Arrowood said.
Cryonics is an experimental procedure in which bodies of the recently-deceased are kept at ultra-low temperatures to preserve them until they can be revived by future medical technology.
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Alcor, which says it has had 170 patients so far, writes on its website that its practice is an "experiment" and asks: "Would you rather be in the experimental group, or the control group?"
Mr Pilgeram says his father had wanted his entire body preserved and he was shocked when he received a box containing his father's ashes a month after his death.
He is now seeking an apology from Alcor and the return of his father's head, if the company still has it.
The company has accused Mr Pilgeram of feigning concern about his father's cryonic preservation in an attempt to receive his life insurance funds – which had been spent on the scientific procedure.
Mr Arrowood told Sky News that Laurence Pilgeram was "an early pioneer in the field of cryopreservation" and was "fully aware" of what he was signing.
He continued: "It comes down to whether his blatant wishes as evidenced by the contract can be challenged by a surviving child who simply does not agree with their parent's choice."
Laurence Pilgeram, a molecular biologist and biochemist who had a life-long interest in ageing and finding cures for disease, entered into the contract with Alcor in 1990.
He died on Friday 10 April 2015 after suffering a cardiac arrest while walking home from a restaurant. He was 90 years old.