Cryonics Legislation Takes Another Step Forward
March 13, 2004
To All Alcor Members,
We are one step closer to legitimizing the science of cryonics in the state of Arizona. On March 8, 2004, HB2637 passed the Rules Committee. This unexpected development came much sooner than we anticipated, due to deadlines for bill consideration that the Speaker decided to enforce. We had participated in a stakeholder meeting attended by Representative Linda Lopez (D-Tucson), legislative staff, the Funeral Board president and Executive Director and the organ donor community representatives. All issues surfaced again including what Representative Lopez and our representatives clearly heard as a willingness by the Funeral Board to address the issues administratively without legislation – just as they did the following Saturday at our Board meeting. At a hastily arranged meeting with Representative Stump on Tuesday, March 9th we presented several alternatives to the current legislation which included:
1) Holding the bill to allow the completion of discussions between Alcor and the Funeral Board over the scope of oversight as Representative Stump said at the Health Committee hearing that he wanted us to do;
2) Let the bill die and work on legislation for the next session to avoid rushing through;
3) Attaching the bill to a striker in the Senate to allow for ongoing negotiations with the Funeral Board;
4) Implementing an administrative solution between Alcor and the Funeral Board based on a Memorandum of Understanding, and negate the need for legislation.
Representative Stump said he would consider our proposals and get back to us that same day. At approximately 4pm Barry Aarons received a call from Representative Stump during which he indicated that he needed more time to consider our proposals. We reiterated to him that we could not support this bill unless the definitions we requested to define cryonics were included. In addition, we asked that more statutory limitations be placed on the authority of the Funeral Board assuring us that we would be able to continue our work in the manner we have developed with our Advisory Boards. Representative Stump replied that he needed more time to consider our position and that he would get back with us in the morning (Wednesday).
It wasn’t until after noon Wednesday that Mr. Stump told Barry that he still needed until the end of the day to make his mind up on what he was going to do. Barry then discovered that HB2637 was scheduled for a floor debate on Thursday and that Representative Stump and Health Committee Chair Deb Gullett ware lobbying individual members in support of the bill. Calls to Representative Stump by Barry were not returned. At that point, not knowing Representative Stump's intentions we felt that we had no other alternative but to oppose the bill on the floor. We began contacting our members via e-mail and phone, requesting that they contact members of the House of Representatives and urge them to vote NO on HB2637. Although I specifically requested our membership to be respectful in their tone when contacting members of the legislature, a few members decided not to heed that advice.
I cannot over-emphasize how much the negative communication to legislators hurt our cause on Thursday. It is simply unacceptable to impugn the integrity of a member of the legislature no matter how passionate you may feel about an issue. Our responsibility as citizens is to respectfully and briefly state our position, explain why the proposed legislation should be defeated, and thank the legislators for considering our interests. Personal attacks against a respected member of the legislature are a sure way to quickly lose support, as we saw on Thursday. If you don’t feel you can calmly and respectfully state your case, then you should not contact members of the legislature at all. Alcor once again owes Representative Stump an apology for the unwarranted actions of a few.
Once the House floor debate began, Barry and I were summoned by Alcor supporter Representative Lopez to the members lounge off the floor where the debate was taking place. Several members of the House requested additional information from us and at this time we were afforded by Ms. Lopez our first glance at the new amendments to the proposed bill. Representative Downing asked me to supply him with references to research reports published in mainstream scientific journals on the topic of the cryopreservation of human bodies. I contacted some our scientific advisors and asked them to fax the relevant information to the representative.
With the proposed amendment to HB2637 in our possession we determined that it contained a number of damaging provisions that would prove problematic for our unfettered access to the UAGA. We met with several members of staff to articulate our concerns. They immediately retired to rewrite the amendments. Over the course of about an hour there were several rewrites done that secured our access to the UAGA and met the concerns of the organ donor community. In addition, very important changes were included in the amendment as follows:
1. All impediments to Alcor’s access to the UAGA were removed throughout the amendment;
2. The following language is now part of the bill:
C. THE BOARD SHALL ADOPT RULES FOR THE LICENSURE AND REGULATION OF A PERSON OR ENTITY DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION A OF THIS SECTIONS. THE RULES SHALL NOT (emphasis added):
1. DISCLOSE THE IDENTITY OF PERSONS BEING STORED, UNLESS A COURT ORDER REQUIRES IT.
2. REQUIRE AN ENTITY TO OPEN STORAGE CONTAINERS, OR TO REMOVE THE CONTENTS OF THE STORAGE CONTAINERS UNLESS A COURT ORDER REQUIRES IT.
3. PROHIBIT CERTAIN MATERIALS FROM BEING USED PROVIDED THAT THE MATERIALS HAVE BEEN USED BEFORE THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS ACT.
4. CHANGE METHODS OF STORING A DEAD HUMAN BODY OR REMAINS UNLESS A COURT ORDER REQUIRES IT.
There are other provisions contained in the amendment that specifically excludes Alcor from being considered an “organ procurement agency or organ procurement organization” which Tanya, Barry and the organ donor lobbyist believe has no affect on us. The entire text of the amendment is available here.
Lastly, as we requested and as Mr. Stump committed, the effective date was extended to September 1, 2005, allowing us another full legislative session to make further modifications that may become necessary.
Once again, we have made major gains in our struggle to achieve appropriate legislation over our facility and practices. We intend to seek amendments in the Senate to point three (3) above to remove the ambiguity over our ability to change our procedures and practices in the future without the need to obtain Funeral Board approval, as we improve the quality of the preservation of our patients.
In addition, the bill still lacks a statutory definition of cryonics, cryopreservation, and cryonics establishment, as well as independent licensing authority. We will seek to have those changes made to the bill in the Senate action committee. This is significant incremental gain. Is this bill perfect? No, it isn’t. Is the struggle over? Again, it’s not. We will continue to fight to protect the rights of our members and patients. I remain convinced that the time for appropriate limited oversight has come and that we were right to embrace that effort from the beginning with open arms because it holds the potential for great opportunity for Alcor.
There was a great deal of misinformation spoken on the floor of the House Thursday. Clearly, we must do a better job at educating members of the Senate to receive fairer representation in that body. We will protect our gains and strive for enactment of those additional necessary changes we have been advocating as the legislative process continues.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation