Cryonics – Life after death?

varanasi-cremation-process

When you die, what will happen to your body? Have you informed your closest family of your personal decision? Do you want to be cremated? Or do you want to be buried? Have you told them where?

What if  I told that you didn’t have to be dead forever, that your death was only a temporary state, that you could be stored upside down in a metal container in liquid nitrogen with your blood replaced by chemicals at -196 degrees for a thousand years, and then be bought back to life again. You’d think I was crazy right? Or perhaps you’d think I was reciting a scene from an Austin powers movie?

cryonics-merl

Over a thousand people around the world have signed up to be stored like this when they pass, hoping to one day be resurrected once medical science has advanced. The practice known as Cryonics is widely controversial, breaking many religious boundaries and condemned by many.

Those who choose to be stored in cryopreservation centres such as Alcor Life Extension in Arizona, US, are choosing to cheat death, perhaps because they are ill and there is no current cure for their disease, or maybe they just do not want to die. Whatever their reasoning they are not alone, many celebrities including Music tycoon Simon Cowell have vouched for the option. Despite the huge cost, between £80,000 to £200,000, the process is not just limited to the rich and famous. Some life insurance companies offer a whole life insurance in which after the client dies, the money will be paid out to the desired Cryonics Company.

In an ideal world, cryopreservation procedures will start instantly after death, assuming the patient has informed his family of the first steps to take. In a non-ideal world, procedures will start as soon as the cryonics team arrive. Members of Alcor life extension are advised to relocate to their hospice in Arizona when they feel they are nearing the end, or if they have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

drip-line-attached-to-hand

As soon after ‘legal death’ as possible the patient will have to be stabilised, he is placed in an ice water bath, whilst blood circulation and breathing are artificially re-established using a Heart-Lung resuscitator (HLR). Once this has been achieved the patient will receive an intravenous line and protective medications will be administered. These protective medicines include the use of Anticoagulants and Anesthetics, which help maintain blood pressure, relax the muscles, and to protect the brain from reperfusion injury. Once the patient has been stabilised, Cryoprotective perfusion will be carried out – See this extract from Alcor Life extension:

A base perfusate similar to the preservation solution used during transport is circulated through the patient at a temperature near 0°C (the freezing point of water) for several minutes. This washes out any remaining blood. The cryoprotectant concentration is then linearly increased over 2 hours to one half the final target concentrations. This slow introduction minimizes osmotic stress, and allows time for the cryoprotectant concentration to equilibrate (become the same) inside and outside cells. A rapid increase to the final concentration is then made, and the final concentration is held until the venous outflow concentration equals the target concentration (approximately one hour). Temperature, pressure, and cryoprotectant concentration data are continuously monitored and acquired by computer.

Once Cryoprotective perfusion has been carried out and Cryoprotectants have been administered (chemicals which help to avoid damaging ice formation in cells) the patient will then undergo cooling. Over a period of three hours the patient will be frozen to -124 degrees using computer controlled fans circulating nitrogen gas. Once this is completed the patient is then ‘vitrified’. They then undergo the second and final stage of cooling to -196 degrees over two weeks. After this they will be moved to storage in liquid nitrogen at -196 until the time comes that they will be resuscitated.

The whole idea seems quite wonderful for the unreligious type who wants to live on forever, however, we must look at the impact this would have on the planet if, for arguments sake, one day Cryonics become a do-able, viable and popular option and medical technology became able to revive us. People would continue to reproduce, the world would begin to overpopulate as people start to be revived, countries would likely introduce birth control/reproduction control laws which would be hard to enforce. The world’s population would grow exponentially and very fast. The world would soon reach its full capacity, a point where governments and countries would start to look for resettlement in currently no-go areas, humans would start living underwater, we would inhabit the oceans, the rich and famous would start to relocate to outer space, perhaps on space stations or on mars. Outer space would become a permanent residence for a select few escaping the misery of the overpopulated earth. Other species will become extinct as our food becomes less available, vegetation would not be able to keep up with human demand. As space runs out and food becomes scarce natural selection between humans would set in. The less powerful would be left to die as the others prosper. The idea seems not so wonderful now?

overpopulation

Death has and always will be a vital part of the life cycle and us as human beings have a responsibility to remember that, we must protect the planet that we live on, the planet that has given us life and in order to do that we must die. In order for our future generations to live, we must die. There are currently no laws directly involving Cryonics as the process itself does not yet work and it is unclear whether it ever will. Technologies such as molecular nanotechnology are what scientists and cryonics enthusiasts alike are depending on. If it ever became a reality what would the political complications be? Cryonics companies will fight the battle as they will feel they have a moral obligation to revive their patients, however, almost as soon as the first patient has been revived, there will be laws going through to make the process illegal.

Make of it what you will, I have faith that technology will continue to develop until things like Cryonics become a reality, I strongly believe that one day the hopes of many cryonics enthusiasts will come true, having said that who knows what complications they will meet along the way, and it is clearly not a sustainable option for the good of our planet. What would you chose? Leave your comments below.

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5 comments

  1. newsfortherevolution · February 24, 2015

    Interesting. There’s a couple of things to consider. First, if none of your family and friends go in for this option I don’t see what the point is. You would be alone in a strange world, which leads to the second point. Imagine if someone form the 17th century was suddenly awakened in our world. It would be a huge psychological and emotional adjustment. In fact it might be too much for some people to cope with.

    The world changes so fast, elderly people today have a difficult time relating to many of the newer social, cultural and technological advancements and innovations. This will only become more pronounced in the future. People today will be considered extremely backwards by future generations one or two hundred years from now. The fact is, many of these people may never acclimatize to the world they wake up in.

    I think I’ll opt for the old fashion way of dealing with death, and just accept it when the time comes

    Liked by 1 person

    • ologun36 · February 25, 2015

      Great comment. There’s a lot of thought gone into considering this as it’s a very common tool within Sci Fi. Forever Young, Vanilla Sky; the list is extensive: even Walt Disney is supposed to have his head on ice some place, The greatest issues are all inter-textual. From over population to use of resources down to immortality and the expanse of time and motion of culture, technology, language etc. What if ideally we had perpetual energy (near as dammit with say fusion) resources and space were optimised so that over population was not the issue and we got to a leisurely pace of opting in and out of existence via stasis? Decay & age are a valid point you mentioned and is in fact a dilemma. Then again if we can go as far as freezing living tissue without damaging cells and can re-animate, who is to say that numerous other technologies are not available i.e quantum bio-mechanical processors that allow a person to learn and retain information or learn new tricks matrix style (pure idiotic speculation here). Immortality, life span extensions. I go off on a tangent with this sort of subject for it is in fact one topic that manages to define that insatiable quality of humanity to never be satisfied until we know and conquer every domain. As ethically and morally peculiar it might seem to defy nature in such a way, some ventures will always carry a duality. Want to get to another exo-planet that’s a thousand light years away and set up a new colony, maybe extend the human race? Freezing some folks who are up for it might be one of the only valid solutions. In fact the more I think about such technology the more applications and positive wonders spring to mind that far outweigh the negatives. On a final note. If we are to discuss class and equality or humanity when regarding anything to do with science, it is always going to carry that usual problem that the initial science is not always able to take into consideration.
      Imagine this if you will. An asteroid is going to hit the Earth. Scientists build a bunker and store the genetic information of everything. Then within this bunker there are say a thousand cryogenic stasis beds set on a timer for say a millennia, perhaps longer until Earth had regenerated. Who goes in the beds/chambers? As things stand, you better believe the hegemony will be first. The topic of logic and fairness in our world society is another realm altogether and I would hope that science is not put on hold simply because our present cultural systems revolve around selfishness, greed, war and hatred.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. newsfortherevolution · February 24, 2015

    Reblogged this on News for the Revolution.

    Like

  3. migarium · February 24, 2015

    This is an option intended for the sustainability of a species. For an indefinite period of time, this is the way of evaluation alternatives for the human species who believes to have an indefinite end. It has figures which have to be solved in itself. First, the narrowing of the broad framework of the vital necessity environment is a crime under the responsibility of the human species in fact. And, those, who will be awakened at next, they are responsible for the actual cause, they will again face the same paradox. If their expectations will not be met, when they wake up, then will they sleep again? Second, future date, which they expect the likelihood of realization can be brought to them many different options. For example, those people, who will awake can be used as human subjects. An example of a neanderthal is alive today absolutely he or she would be a test subject today. Third, “this will be made for treatments of diseases” is not convincing. In the capitalist chain, this is only for help for the riches and the firms, which investment about this issue is in the middle. So if you have money, you can have it. As a result, this option(wake up at the future) will make more difficult life and death.

    Like

  4. ologun36 · February 24, 2015

    Reblogged this on VERSION and commented:
    A long standing concept and eventuality in science and fiction alike. Whose the frozen head in the can? Oh he used to be a king.
    King?
    Err, yes the magic Kingdom…Walt Disney.
    Send my frozen head off into the stars so that I might after a billion years I might reach the edge of the Galaxy…

    Like

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