Colorado Family, Nonprofit Group Battle Over Woman's Head

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A Colorado family and an Arizona nonprofit are fighting in court over who gets the head of a woman who died this month, along with a $50,000 annuity she left behind.

At issue is whether 71-year-old Mary Robbins' head and brain will be preserved by cryonics — extremely cold temperatures — in the expectation that future technology may be able to bring her back to life and restore her health.

Lawyers for both sides appeared in probate court Friday but the case hasn't been resolved.

Robbins, of Colorado Springs, died Feb. 9. Her family said she was suffering from cancer.

In 2006, she signed documents giving the Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, Arizona, the right to cryogenically preserve her head and brain. She also agreed to give the nonprofit foundation a $50,000 annuity to cover preservation costs.

Her daughter, Darlene Robbins, said her mother changed her mind in her last days because of the procedures that preservation would have required before she died, including tubes in her throat and nose, intravenous lines and medications.

Mary Robbins signed new paperwork that would give her family the annuity, the daughter said.

Darlene Robbins said she opposes a suggestion by Alcor to take her mother's head and that the family get custody of the body.

"I want to have closure. I want to be able to grieve for my mom in a normal way without fighting a legal battle give me back my mother," she said.

Eric Bentley, an attorney for Alcor, said Mary Robbins didn't sign a written notice rescinding the 2006 agreement. He said Alcor wants to honor the wishes she expressed in that document.

"Alcor is not a cult and it's not a fly-by-night operation. It's a science-based medical organization," Bentley said. Alcor's Web site said the foundation was formed in 1972.

Robbins' body is stored on dry ice at a Colorado Springs mortuary until custody is settled, but it's not clear when that might be.

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