Cryonics and End of Life Planning: Part One
by Linda Banks
Image by Jared Erondu*
“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” - Benjamin Franklin
Not so fast, Mr. Franklin. Today there are many who hope to defy death and live again through cryonic preservation. For many, the thought of cremation, a cremation urn or ground burial is preempted by the idea of life extension ideas and scientific research.
“Dying well” can be challenging. Throw in the possibility of not dying, and it becomes more complex. Our blog on dying well discusses tough choices and challenges that arise even when we’ve made our wishes known. Now people are making plans to have their bodies preserved at sub-zero temperatures until future medical science has advanced and their bodies can be restored to life.
Robert Ettinger of Michigan is credited with introducing the world to cryonics with his 1962 book, The Prospect of Immortality. His book describes the science of preserving bodies until advances in medicine and technology can facilitate resuscitation of a frozen body back to full physical and mental health. Proponents believe that death sentences by disease today, including aging, will be reversed and cured in the future.
What is cryonic preservation?
Alcor Life Extension Foundation states “the object of cryonics is to prevent death by preserving sufficient cell structure and chemistry so that recovery (including recovery of memory and personality) remains possible by foreseeable technology.”
The cryonic process involves a few steps:
- Cooling the body as soon after death as possible until it reaches the same temperature as liquid nitrogen, -330F (-200C).
- The blood is replaced with a cryoprotectant fluid to help prevent ice crystals from forming that can damage the tissues.
- The bodies are then placed in a protective bag and immersed in a container of liquid nitrogen.
According to cryonic organizations’ websites, the costs vary considerably and are referred to as “membership.” The cost for full body suspension ranges between $28,000.00 - $200,000.00. The fee includes preserving your body upon death, maintaining the preserved body, and attempting to resuscitate and restore your body to life in the future.
Is cryonic preservation possible?
Why would anyone spend thousands of dollars on something that is not guaranteed, and that many scientists consider impossible? Believers in cryonics say it is worth the gamble and expense.
Today most scientists believe that it would be impossible to revive a dead person, even if they were frozen immediately after death. The medical website Medical Bag provides details and interesting arguments.
People who want to be preserved don’t care about today’s science. They are banking on future advancements in science that will be capable of reversing aging and disease. They point out that scientists in the early 20th century would not have believed it possible to send a man to the moon or perform a heart transplant. Scientists today plan for colonies on other planets, but know that it cannot happen without unknown advancements in science and technology.
Proponents state that the organizations were founded and managed by people who believe in cryonics and who plan to be preserved. Specifically, proponents of cryonics believe that advancement in nanotechnology will enable future doctors to repair and heal tissues and bodies that have been preserved. This branch of micro technology deals with engineering systems at the molecular scale. Scientists believe that:
- Future nanotechnology will alter molecules, one by one.
- The altered molecules will build and repair other molecules in the body.
- Improvements in cryonic preservation techniques and successful experiments with the freezing of embryos support the cryonic organizations’ belief that it’s not “if” but “when” successful resuscitation will be possible.
Critics of the cryonic organizations claim that the companies are perpetuating fraud. By exploiting people’s hope for eternal life, the companies profit. They take clients’ money but guarantee nothing. None of the major cryonics organizations promise that your body can be successfully preserved and resuscitated in the future.
End of life planning: 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. Now is a better time to begin making end of life plans. Below is information to consider when 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. Part Two of this blog provides details on required documentation, as well as important issues to consider when making this decision.
For people whose wishes include a memorial, cremation provides many options to care for final remains. A large selection of memorial cremation urns includes marble cremation urns, metal cremation urns, ceramic cremation urns and wooden cremation urns – all in various designs. For those who want to be cremated then buried in a local cemetery or family burial plot, there are burial cremation urns and urn vaults. Additional information is provided in Part Two.
Interment in a cemetery is the most traditional choice in end of life planning. Contact a local funeral home and set up a meeting. Helpful planning information on what to expect when you meet with a funeral director can prepare you in advance.
Unexpected issues arise around our choices. As end of life planning evolves, planning a memorial or a life celebration can be an important part of any agenda, whether we choose to be preserved, cremated, or buried.
Next week we'll publish Part Two that introduces The Frozen Dead Guy Festival, and discusses specialized memorial services around burial.
* Image can be found here: http://bit.ly/2gIhJxb
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.