Cryonics

The gates of hell are open night and day; Smooth the descent, and easy is the way: But to return, and view the cheerful skies, In this the task and mighty labor lies.
-Virgil (from the Aeneid, Dryden's translation)
 

I've been interested in cryonics for a number of years. In case you don't know, cryonics is a name for the idea of freezing bodies shortly after death and keeping them at a very low temperature until such time in the future as they can be thawed and the person revived and cured of whatever ailed them. In the way it may be possible to extend the human lifespan.

Cryonic suspension has not been shown to work on mammals, so supporting research is essential if it is ever to become possible. Cryonics is considered to be so controversial that it gets no support (well, hardly any) from the usual sources of research money, the government and large corporations.

The leading cryonics research organization is a for-profit corporation, 21st Century Medicine, headquartered in Southern California. They are working on vitrification techniques which will allow storage at low temperatures without the formation of ice crystals (which destroy cells). Vitrification is like how glass exists. A pane of glass is actually a liquid, just a very viscous one. If you look at an window that's a hundred years old or more, you will notice that the bottom is thicker than the top. Sometimes a crystal will form in an old window pane, also. Anyway, 21CM (as they refer to it) is not publicly traded, but a private placement of stock may occur sometime for you venture capital investors out there.

It is possible now to arrange to be frozen (or vitrified) and stored at liquid nitrogen temperatures after your death. No one knows if the cellular damage that happens during freezing can ever be undone, however. The main organizations that do this suspension process in the United States are as follows:

All seem sincere and as I see it, it's a matter of choosing the one which most closely meets your needs (sort of like choosing a car from the profusion of models available). If you live in Canada, check out the Cryonics Society of Canada. I have developed a list of criteria for choosing a cryonics organization, according to my personal thoughts on what's important:

  1. Suspension price. What is included and what is left out? Whole body or neuro?
  2. Provision for transport, cooldown and perfusion. Does the organization provide this or do you make your own arrangements? Response time? Technologies used? Standby team available? Geographic area served?
  3. Long term low temperature storage. How likely is the organization to continue to exist? Legal form (non-profit, for-profit, other)? Financial stability? How is the trust money invested? What assumptions are made about long term rate of return, after allowing for inflation? What provisions have been made to protect storage area from natural disasters?

For more reading on cryonics, here are some links.

How Much Does It Cost?

A lot of people want to know the price of cyronic suspension. Basic rates are $29,000 for Cryonics Institue and $200,000 from Alcor. Why the big difference? The simple version is that CI assumes uses more basic suspension procedures and assumes a higher rate of return on their investments. Most people fund this with life insurance.

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