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Court Rejects Request To Freeze Head Before Death

January 30, 1992

VENTURA, Calif. (AP) _ A state appeals court Wednesday rejected a terminally ill mathematician’s request to have his head frozen before death in hopes scientists one day could cure his brain tumor.

Though California law doesn’t forbid suicide, Thomas Donaldson ″has no constitutional right to a state-assisted death,″ the 2nd District Court of Appeal said in a 3-0 ruling.

The court also said it couldn’t prohibit the criminal prosecution of a cryonics company president if he helped Donaldson in ending his life.

Donaldson, a Sunnyvale-based computer consultant, said in his lawsuit that he has a malignant, inoperable brain tumor that will bring on an increasingly vegetative state. He said he has about 18 months to live.

The lawsuit sought court approval to allow Donaldson to have his head quick-frozen before death by the Riverside-based Alcor Life Extension Foundation. His head would be placed in a steel receptacle filled with liquid nitrogen.

Donaldson sought an order shielding company president Carlos Mondragon from prosecution for homicide or aiding in a suicide.

″No one’s saying that he doesn’t have a right to suicide,″ said Deputy Attorney General Kristofer Jorstad, who argued against the suit. ″He can take a gun and point it at his own chest and pull the trigger. He just can’t hand the gun to a friend and say, ‘You pull the trigger.’ That’s Murder 1.″

Donaldson said at a 1990 court hearing in the case that he believed scientists eventually would be able to remove the tumor safely, then use his cells to create a new body.

A lower court rejected Donaldson’s suit in 1990, saying the legally recognized right to refuse medical treatment didn’t protect those who froze a person before death. The appeals court agreed.

Donaldson has said he’d appeal any unfavorable ruling.

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