Cryonics and End of Life Planning: Part Two
by Linda Banks
In Part One of this series we discussed the history and feasibility of cryonic preservation.
The “Frozen Dead Guy” festival
Nederland, Colorado is host to cryogenic proponent Bredo Morstoel, of Norway. Morstoel requested that he be preserved believing that he would be revived to live again in the future. When Morstoel died from a heart condition in 1989 his body was packed in dry ice and flown to the Trans Time cryonics facility in Oakland, California. There, he was placed in liquid nitrogen for several years, then flown to Colorado where his daughter lived in the mountains west of Boulder.
For over 20 years, Grandpa Bredo’s body has resided in a Tuff Shed near Nederland, Colorado. Bo Shaffer was hired by the family in 1995 to maintain Bredo’s body in his cryonic state. Every month Shaffer and a team of volunteers deliver 1,600 pounds of dry ice and pack it around Bredo in his sarcophagus, surrounded by foam padding, a tarp, and blankets. Shaffer keeps Grandpa Bredo at a steady -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
The town of Nederland will celebrate 16 years of “Frozen Dead Guy Days” in March 2017. The website boasts that the festival is “one of the most unique and quirky festivals in the country and continues to be a world-renowned spectacle.” Activities include coffin races, frozen turkey bowling, and frozen salmon tosses.
Cryonics, cremation or burial
We have many choices when we die, or when we choose our final resting place even after cryonic preservation. None of us know when our lives will end, and now is the time to make our end of life plans. The information below is helpful to consider for end of life planning around cryonics, cremation and burial.
Those interested in cryonic preservation should begin planning early. There are many legal and financial arrangements to be made prior to being accepted for cryopreservation. Examples of forms may include, but not be limited to, the following:
- Funding agreement: Patients sign a contract agreeing to the fee schedule that sets forth arrangements to provide funds for their cryopreservation. Most patients pay through a life insurance policy naming the cryonic organization as beneficiary. Patients must provide verification of their funds in the form of life insurance, irrevocable trust or some other agreed upon arrangement. The cryonic organization sets forth how the funds will be invested and used for your cryopreservation and future resuscitation.
- Agreement for cryonic suspension: This document sets forth the obligations of both the patients and the organization. Cryonic patients agree to be preserved with the understanding that there is no set date for their resuscitation, or guarantee of its success. Contracts include language stating that it may be decades or centuries before the technology exists to attempt resuscitation. Alcor Life Extension Foundation (sited above) includes a sample copy of their 21-page contract at their website.
- Uniform Donor Form: A legal document by which the patient donates his or her body to the cryonic organization upon death. It requires that the donation be made as soon as possible after death, without embalming or autopsy.
- Next of Kin Agreement: This document is a contract between the patient and their spouse, parent, child or sibling. The family members assign authority of the body to the cryonic organization. They agree to abide by the wishes of their loved one and to take actions necessary to permit immediate cryopreservation. This document helps prevent litigation in the event a family member does not agree with the cryonic preservation for a loved one.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care: With this form, the patient gives a specified person authority to make health care decisions when he or she cannot. It sets forth when, and under what circumstances, the patient wants the medical staff to stop attempts to resuscitate or sustain life support systems. The form can also be used to give authority of disposal of your body after death.
The Alcor Life Extension Foundation of Scottsdale, Arizona, states on their website, "Optimism for the future of medicine and technology is what lies at the core of cryonics."
For those interested in cryonics, consider:
- There is no guarantee that you will be successfully resuscitated in the future.
- It is expensive ($28,000 - $200,000).
- Consider your family’s feelings and discuss your decision with them.
- Future societies and scientists may not want to revive bodies from the past.
- Cryonic organizations may go out of business and the status of bodies will be unknown.
- You may be required to move near the facility when you reach your end of life.
Cremation provides many options to care for final remains. The large selection of memorial cremation urns provides choices in design, material, and purpose of the urn. For those who want to be cremated and then buried in a local cemetery or family burial plot, there are burial cremation urns and burial vaults.
Biodegradable urns are made of natural materials that decompose naturally when placed in the earth or set to sea. Scattering urns are available to assist with scattering the ashes of a loved one. Cremation jewelry is designed to hold a small portion of cremated remains in pendants worn around your neck.
As mentioned in Part One, interment in a cemetery is the most traditional choice in end of life planning.
Specialized memorial services around a burial include:
- Religious service. If you wish a religious memorial service and burial, contact your church, temple or mosque to discuss your end of life plans.
- All active duty personnel, veterans, armed forces retirees and eligible family members are entitled to burial benefits. Additional information is available in “VA Death Benefits – Sacred Honor.” A large selection of military cremation urns provides many choices to honor your loved one.
- Green Burial. The absence of chemical embalming or metal coffins is the basis of green burials. The body is not preserved but interred immediately into the ground in a biodegradable urn, coffin, or a simple shroud. According to the Green Burial Council, the number of approved green burial providers in North America has grown from 1 in 2006 to more than 340 today. The Council maintains a list of approved providers at their website.
Cryonic preservation organizations
In 1976 Robert Ettinger founded The Cryonics Institute in Clinton, Michigan. Robert Ettinger passed away in 2011 at the age of 92. He became the 106th client of the institute, joining his mother and first and second wives. Today the interest in cryonics is great. Cryonics Institute is one of five organizations offering cryopreservation in the world. The list of five companies is:
- Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Scottsdale, Arizona
- American Cryonics Society, Cupertino, California
- Cryonics Institute, Clinton Township, Michigan
- KrioRus, Alabychevo, Russia
- Trans Time, Oakland, California
Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother suddenly died, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day.