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Who owns your body?

February 22, 2010

This is interesting.

Mary Robbins signed a contract with Alcor, a “life extension foundation”.  When Mary died, the company would be paid $50,000 to use cryonics to preserve her head.

Mary died this week.  Her daughter does not want the head removed from the body.  The family claims that Mary signed new papers changing her beneficiaries.  I wonder why she didn’t just cancel the contract.  If you hire someone to perform a job for you, you can decide to not hire them.  You might have to pay a penalty depending on the wording of the contract.  Obviously, all of this is in court now.

From a legal point of view, it seems that the contract with the Alcor is not affected by the designation of beneficiaries since the heirs would receive what is left of the estate.  Mary hired a company to perform a service for a fee.  Could they still get the fee even if they don’t perform the service?  Is the family more concerned about the money or the body?

In Saskatchewan, your next-of-kin decides what happens to your body after you die.  Even if you sign documents stating that you want to donate your body to a medical school after you die and even if those documents are witnessed and notarized, they are not legally binding.  You get to decide what happens to every single item that you own except for your actual body.  Why?  Because family members could raise a big stink and you’re dead so their reaction takes precedence.    So, if you know what you want to happen to your body after you die, you’d be well advised to make sure that your closest next-of-kin is in agreement and ready to fight other family members to make sure that it happens.

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