[Alcor's response to ABC Nightline and Larry Johnson Allegations October 7, 2009:
Last night, Larry Johnson appeared on ABCís Nightline to promote the sale of his book, ďFrozen: My Journey into Cryonics, Deception and Death.Ē Mr. Johnson continues to violate legal agreements with Alcor and an Arizona Courtís judgment prohibiting him from engaging in such activities. It is inexcusable and indefensible that Mr. Johnson would invade the privacy of private individuals and continue his false allegations against Alcor and its members. Mr. Johnson has had numerous opportunities to defend his actions in a court of law Ė both in Arizona and New York. He has failed to appear in Court in both states and has taken extreme steps to avoid service of process, and yet has no problem appearing on national television to slander innocent people and attempt to defame a 40 year old nonprofit organization that has gained respect among many in the scientific and medical communities. Johnsonís blatant disrespect for the law is yet another example of his disregard for the interests and rights of any other than his own.
Nightline made some efforts to investigate Mr. Johnson's many fallacious claims. Mr. Johnson was caught in his own web of deceit when one of his claimed errors in the Ted Williams case was exposed as false. He was also forced to admit that he tried to profit from the death of baseball great, Ted Williams by charging visitors to his website $20 to view alleged photos of Mr. Williamsí cryopreserved head. Such photos, some of which are part of internal case documentation files, were removed from Alcor without authorization by Mr. Johnson. Since August of 2004, Mr. Johnson has refused to abide by a settlement agreement he signed, a formal settlement agreement ordered by the mediator and a Court order to return all audiotapes, photos and the many other illegally obtained documents he removed from Alcorís patient files. Sadly, this is just one of the many instances of Mr. Johnsonís shameless profiteering at the expense of the very people he was hired to protect.
While it is impossible to address all the false assertions in Mr. Johnsonís book in a brief statement, Alcor would like to set the record straight on some of the specifics addressed in the Nightline segment.
In his book and during the Nightline segment, Mr. Johnson claimed he witnessed Alcor staff striking Ted William's head with a wrench. Mr. Johnson, who was an executive with authority over the procedure in question, also claimed he said nothing about the purported incident when it allegedly occurred nor did he bring it to the attention of any other staff or board member. In fact, multiple individuals verified as documented witnesses to patient transfer procedures state without hesitation that Mr. Johnsonís claims are pure fabrication. Alcorís internal investigation did not reveal any reports or recollections of any Alcor patient ever being struck by a wrench or any other object, accidentally or otherwise. Yet this fictional and unsubstantiated report continues to echo, as if it is fact, over and over again in the media.
Johnsonís statements about tissue debris, tuna, and cats are fictionalized accounts crafted for maximum tabloid shock value, as is nearly the entirety of his book. Alcor denies exposing patients to any devices or equipment that are not appropriate for their function, clean, and sterile as required. Alcor condemns the gross insensitivity of news media in presenting Johnsonís stories as newsworthy, desecrating the memory of Ted Williams to the great upset of his youngest daughter, who was "horrified and shocked" in a New York courtroom on Monday when learning sales of Johnsonís book would go forward. This was particularly heinous since the publisher apparently knowingly accelerated release of the book in order to preclude the Temporary Restraining Order requested by Alcor and the Williams family. The situation sadly demonstrates how easy it is for one malicious individual to taint the memory of a great man, emotionally crush a family, and damage decades of work by others. That this is presented as wrong-doing on Alcorís part is incomprehensible.
also alleged that Ted Williamsí head was stored in an unsafe
malfunctioning freezer. Patient confidentiality agreements limit
Alcorís ability to discuss treatment of specific patients; however, we
can confirm that in some instances, and for specific reasons, Alcor
neuropatients have been stored for periods as long as one year in a
type of low temperature freezer called a Cryostar at temperatures near
-130˚C. This is done for purposes of relaxing thermal stress prior to
final descent to -196˚C, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, to reduce
the incidence of thermal stress fractures. This is very expensive, so
it has only been done in cases where patients privately requested and
paid for it, or on recommendation of scientific advisors for certain
Cryostar storage was not done at any risk to patients. Patients were protected from temperature fluctuations by thermal buffering provided by their containers and surrounding foam insulation. In addition, they were surrounded by dry ice. Furthermore, the entire Cryostar freezer was connected to battery-powered liquid nitrogen backup so that even total mechanical failure or power failure could not result in warming. Finally, frequent scheduled and documented human monitoring of Alcor storage facilities would result in rapid detection of any problems. Any statements made by individuals that the Cryostar was unsafe for interim storage were either misinformed, or assumed a freezer not equipped with thermal buffering or backup systems.
As to references to ďcrackingĒ in his book and media reports, as former Director of Clinical Services, Johnson knows full well that fracturing is expected in every cryopreservation and is an unavoidable result of cooling large volumes of tissue toward liquid nitrogen temperature. There is an entire essay on this subject and the role of -130˚C storage as it pertains to fracturing, on the Alcor website. Mr. Johnsonís representations of fracturing (as revealed by Alcorís careful monitoring and documentation of fracturing) as being the result of mishandling is deliberately misleading and crafted for shock value. This whole line of allegation is recycled from Mr. Johnsonís allegations in 2003 and has been previously dismissed.
The sensationalized reference to the use of a ďhammer and chiselĒ in a cryopreservation demonstrates either Mr. Johnsonís ignorance or an effort to hoodwink the public. In a surgical context, those instruments are called a ďmallet and osteotomeĒ commonly used by orthopedists for surgical procedures involving bone. In testimony before a hearing of the Arizona House of Representatives in 2004, Alcor in fact testified that these instruments are utilized in cryonics surgical procedures. Johnson is again recycling his tabloid-style 2003 allegations trying to manufacture scandal where there is none.
Johnson also offered audio tapes claimed to be discussions of the hastening of the death of an AIDS patient cryopreserved by Alcor in 1992, an allegation refuted by the patientís nurse on Nightline. These alleged recordings cannot be independently verified. To the extent the conversations were recorded illegally, taken out of context or edited by Mr. Johnson to suit his personal gain, we need to respect the rights of those individuals to take legal action against Mr. Johnson.
Alcor's operations are overseen by its Board of Directors, which meets on a monthly basis to review reports of Alcor's staff and management and to address other issues of significance to the organization. Alcor's management and its Board of Directors take seriously all reports or allegations of individual or institutional misconduct or other failings in the high operational standards to which Alcor holds itself. Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Johnson's allegations were not raised to the Board or management at the time when he was an employee, and notwithstanding the six-year delay of some of these allegations and the for-profit format in which he has brought them, and notwithstanding the many allegations already determined to be factually incorrect, Alcor will continue to investigate each and every allegation in Mr. Johnsonís book in order to determine whether any internal corrections are warranted. The information collected will be valuable for ongoing and yet-to-be filed lawsuits against Johnson for violations of confidentiality, defamation, and other causes of action related to his prior employment at Alcor.
It is important to note that Mr. Johnson came to Alcor with supposed medical experience, and he was paid and entrusted to improve procedures and ensure the safety and privacy of Alcor members. In his short tenure, Mr. Johnson misappropriated Alcor property for his own financial gain; he invaded the privacy of private individuals by secretly recording their conversations; he absconded with medical records and technical photographs that were taken for documentation purposes and has presented these out of the context in which they were intended in order to make Alcor and its well-founded and documented procedures seem ghoulish in the eyes of the unsuspecting public. Mr. Johnsonís actions violated the trust of Alcor, breached the confidence of its members and damaged the reputation of the science of cryonics.
As Nightline asked in the lead-in to the segment, ďis this self-styled whistleblower just out to make money?Ē The answer is a resounding yes.
It is unexplainable and indefensible that Mr. Johnson would voice his allegations in a book for profit and continue these unauthorized disclosures in the press while thumbing his nose at the legal system. Alcor is a non-profit organization, a pioneer in the field of cryonics and categorically denies the false allegations contained in Mr. Johnsonís book. We are prepared to take any and all action available within the legal system to protect the rights and privacy of our members. Media exposure of Johnson's false allegations have created a difficult time for the members of Alcor, the families of our patients, and the private individuals who are attacked personally in Mr. Johnsonís book, but we have faith in the legal system and believe that, in time, Mr. Johnson will be brought to justice and Alcor will be fully vindicated.
Further information and supplementary documents to this statement are available on Alcorís website."