SI Vault
Tip of the ICEBERG?
Tom Verducci
August 18, 2003
Questions and allegations about the Alcor Life Extension Foundation extend beyond the Williams case
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 18, 2003

Tip Of The Iceberg?

Questions and allegations about the Alcor Life Extension Foundation extend beyond the Williams case

View CoverRead All Articles

In a blue building in an industrial park near the airport in Scottsdale, Ariz., Ted Williams is one of about 60 corpses—or patients, as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation calls them—awaiting an uncertain future. Alcor does not guarantee that the frozen remains will one day be brought back to life. Alcor is simply in the preservation business.

SI's investigation into the Williams case turned up allegations of sloppy procedures and ethical violations. Among them:

?Eight DNA samples of the 182 recorded by Alcor as having been taken from Williams are missing without explanation, according to a taped conversation between former company COO Larry Johnson and a board adviser who reviewed an inventory list.

? Johnson, then director of clinical services, warned CEO Jerry Lemler, M.D., in a June 18, 2003, memo that the company had potentially violated federal and state laws by dumping "biohazardous medical waste," including waste water that contained human blood, down a public sewer drain behind the Alcor building. Johnson says that an angry COO Charles Piatt told him to shred the memo and erase the original from his hard drive.

In a taped conversation about the dumping, Piatt told Johnson, "Every time it happens, it makes me very nervous because you know there could be some National Enquirer photographer with infrared film." Asked by SI about the dumping allegations, Piatt said he didn't recall the June 18 memo and that "this is not the kind of thing I want to comment on."

Johnson has contacted authorities from the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality about the alleged violations. Lemler, when asked about dumping hazardous waste, said, "We are not doing anything like that. We have had no difficulty with any EPA on any issue. I am not sure where you would have received such information."

?On March 12, 2001, Lemler, a licensed medical doctor, was placed on two years probation and fined $1,000 by the Tennessee Department of Health for unprofessional conduct related to his operation of a weight-loss program between 1997 and 2000.

Platt, independent of Johnson's cooperation with SI, wrote a 27-page petition to Alcor board members, dated July 30, 2003, asking Lemler to resign as CEO, a copy of which was obtained by SI. Piatt wrote that Alcor officials learned of Lemler's probation "only through a chance search on the Net. Full disclosure is an obvious ethical requirement for anyone who takes the sensitive job as Alcor's CEO." Lemler told SI that he informed Alcor about his probation during the hiring process.

Alcor was established in 1972 as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. Some of its 60 or so patients are full-body suspensions in which the patient is intact upside down; some, including small pets, are head-only suspensions, or "neuros," in which the bodies have been cremated; and a few, like Williams, are "half-and-half" suspensions, in which the head and the body are preserved separately. There are more than 630 living Alcor members who pay monthly dues. These future patients are apparently not deterred by the disclaimer on the consent form that Alcor members must sign: "Many physicians, cryobiologists and scientists in other disciplines discount any reasonable possibility that cryonic suspension will be successful."