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French Court Considers 'Frozen Remains' Case - 2002-03-16

Authorities in France have asked a court to give them control of two bodies that were frozen in hopes that some day they could be brought back to life. But local authorities in the Loire Valley want to bury the bodies of Dr. Raymond Martinot and his wife, which have been kept in a special freezer at the family home. The court hearing is a test of what rights people have regarding the disposition of their remains.

Dr. Raymond Martinot believed in cryonics - the idea that advances in medical science will someday make revival of the dead possible, and that bodies should be kept frozen until that day arrives.

Dr. Martinot froze the body of his wife when she died 18 years ago - and the authorities did not object. His son froze the doctor's body when he died last month.

Now officials of the town of Saumur, in the Loire Valley, have gone to court to get the bodies removed from the Martinot estate, where they have been kept in a specially designed freezer. French law says that bodies must be buried or cremated.

Another French family trying to keep a family member frozen at home lost a court case two years ago. Some Europeans have had bodies frozen in the United States, where cryonics is legal in some states.

The medical basis of cryonics is uncertain. The freezing does prevent decomposition, but also can damage sensitive organs. The family's lawyers argue that freezing is little different from burial, and the bodies should be allowed to rest in peace, or at least until the awaited breakthrough in technology takes place.