Overall, three great questions concerning the freezer program are being treated: Is it technically sound, so that the frozen will have a good chance of being resuscitated and rejuvenated? Is it feasible on a practical level, raising no insuperable new problems? Is it desirable, both for the individual and for society?
These questions are to some extent inextricable. In fact, they are so intertwined that there is no completely logical order of presentation, since at almost every stage the argument depends not only on what has gone before but also on what is yet to come, and the picture may not come into clearest focus until a second reading. But in order to finish, one must start, and words have to be set down one after another. In a later age, you and I will no doubt learn better methods of communication.
So far we have dealt chiefly with the first question, and in subsequent chapters shall consider mainly the last two. At the present juncture, the reader is asked tentatively to assume more or less affirmative answers to all three questions, and on this basis to consider the immediate opportunities and obligations presented to him as an individual.
What can we do, today, to improve our own chances? How can we give a dying relative his best chance? If a relative dies when we have made no advance preparation and have limited resources, what can be done? How far, in good conscience, must we carry our efforts?
The Outer Limits of Optimism
Before going into detail, if we stand back and look at the problem in its broadest outlines, we note that the extreme limits of Optimism depend on two questions: (1) Under what circumstances, if any, is the essence or identity of an individual absolutely and forever lost? (2) What limits, if any, will the human race encounter in its technical development, in its ability to manipulate the universe?
As to the first, the answer of the completely dauntless optimist is that in a deterministic universe no information is ever irretrievably lost, since every detail of history is implicit in the present. Thus, just as the past and future positions of the planets can be calculated from present observations, it is always possible, in principle, to find out every minutest detail of a man's life, memories and personality, given a sufficiently fabulous degree of technical competence. (At least, this seems to be true if we ignore the possibility of the universe being finite in extent, and also ignore limits imposed by expanding-universe theories with their "disappearing galaxies".)
Thus the determinist believes it possible, in principle at least, for a sufficiently advanced civilization to infer as much as necessary about any man who ever lived, and either reconstruct him or replicate him, after gathering together either his original atoms or substitutes. As an intermediate case, an Egyptian mummy could be resurrected; as an extreme case, Ug of Ur. (Some of the "philosophical" problems involved will be discussed in a later chapter.)
Of course, the present consensus (but not the unanimous opinion) of physicists is that the universe is not completely deterministic, and that the outlines of events, whether past, present, or future, must in general always remain somewhat blurred,
and that individual atoms have no permanent identity. In this view, there is a theoretical as well as a practical limit to the accuracy with which we can draw inferences about a man and reconstruct or replicate him. But what this limit may in fact be at present unknown, mainly because we do not yet know enough about microbiology.
As to the second question, no one can be sure how much of what is possible in principle will ever become feasible in practice. If a corpse can lie in a freezer for an essentially unlimited time with no strain on its patience, we can hardly set arbitrary limits on future capabilities. But it is better to limit our guesses to the next few centuries, and to those areas where definite technical developments already point the way.
Preserving Samples of Ourselves
There is one obvious way of helping our chances, in case we die in the early years before non-damaging methods are known for full-body freezing. This is to have little snippets of ourselves surgically removed, while we are in good health, and stored at low temperatures with the benefits of protective chemical infusions. These better-preserved samples can be enlarged in culture by the future technicians for use in repairing our damaged bodies.
In the last chapter something was said about growing cultures, if necessary, from the frozen body itself, and this will doubtless be possible, since a certain percentage of the cells are likely to be in reasonably good condition. At the same time, a margin of safety will be added if samplings of the healthy body are frozen separately ahead of time.
In future eras it will certainly be possible to develop any needed tissues or organs from a germ cell, and it should soon become customary for all adults to make deposits of these cells in
cold storage banks. Such banks already exist for the male (sperm) cells, and according to Professor Muller a relatively small amount of research might make a similar procedure possible for women. (77)
Advanced biological art should in fact be able to generate any kind of tissue or organ from a somatic cell; a single scrap of skin might suffice. On the other hand, it is conceivable that at a certain stage in history it might be helpful to have samples of many kinds of tissue from many organs of the body.
It might also be desirable to take tiny samples from many regions of the brain, of course recording the location of the source as accurately as possible. As mentioned earlier, a memory trace is thought to be multiply duplicated in various regions of the brain, so that each of many memories can be both left in the brain and stored in a separate sample vault. Whether a significant number of memories can be protected in this way is an open question.
The procedure seems harmless, since in general tiny specimens taken from various regions of the brain apparently leave it undamaged. Haldane, for example, referring to the work of Lashley says, ". . . while removal of a large fraction of a rat's cerebral cortex abolished the learnt capacity to traverse a maze, local injury to any small part of this volume had little or no effect. The facts on human cerebral injuries lead to a similar conclusion." (37) (In other words, we are brainier than we need to be, in spite of the daily news headlines.)
Manifestly, this kind of procedure will not soon, if ever, lend itself in full to large-scale application; there are not enough brain surgeons, nor people anxious for brain surgery.
In the near future, as a compromise, perhaps it will become routine during any surgical procedure to take a few extra snips here and there for the bank. In a different but roughly similar
way, it is already becoming useful for people with rare blood types to freeze-bank it for use in case of emergency.
Preserving the Information
We normally think of information about the body as being preserved in the body - but this is not the only possibility. It is conceivable that ordinary written records, photographs, tapes, etc. may give future technicians enough clues to fill in missing or damaged areas in the brain of the frozen.
The time will certainly come when the brain's method of coding memories is thoroughly understood, and messages can be "read" directly from nervous tissue, and also "read" into it. It is not likely that the relation will be a simple one, nor will it necessarily even be exactly the same for every brain; nevertheless, by knowing that the frozen had a certain item of information, it may be possible to infer helpful conclusions about the character of certain regions in his brain and its cells and molecules.
Similarly, a mass of detailed information about what he did may allow advanced physiological psychologists to deduce important conclusions about what he was, once more providing opportunity to fill in gaps in brain structure.
It follows that we should all make reasonable efforts to obtain and preserve a substantial body of data concerning what we have seen, heard, felt, thought, said, written, and done in the course of our lives. These should probably include a battery of psychological tests. Encephalograms might also be useful.
Like anything else, this notion can be carried too far. Pushing this kind of reasoning to the extreme, one might say that one need only preserve a single cell of his body, for its genetic con- tent; from this he could be regrown, and the original personality and memories, at least in coarse outline, implanted from the records. But this sort of connection is both too difficult and too
tenuous and unsatisfying for most people. Yet we can be sure that before long "record mania" will be added to our list of tics, and swindlers will peddle all kinds of bizarre recording devices and services. No advance is without its price.
Organization and Organizations
What practical steps can one take to ensure that he will be frozen at death? A number of obvious courses suggest themselves.
One of the simplest steps is to specify in your will that you insist on being frozen. (A number of people have already done so, as of this writing, I am told, including persons in Michigan, District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, California, and Japan.) To make sure this demand is effective, of course, a number of precautions should be observed.
First, the will should certainly be drawn with competent legal counsel. Second, the details should be made as explicit as possible, and therefore the will should be periodically updated. Third, promise of cooperation should be obtained from your expected surviving next of kin, preferably in writing. Fourth, you should choose an executor both sympathetic to your desire and capable of vigorous and decisive action, not necessarily a close relative. Fifth, you should provide funds for the purpose, possibly in the form of direct or indirect proceeds of a special insurance policy.
Pursuant to the question of money, it is clear that if you are living up to your income or slightly beyond it, as most of us are, you must mend your ways and practice thrift. Your estate, including insurance policies, must provide for any dependents in addition to purchasing freezer accommodations and a trust fund for yourself. A wise and moderate balance must be struck in all things; however, the more money you save, the more you will be
able to take with you, and the more influence you will wield in the meantime.
Another obvious step is to obtain the promise of cooperation from your physician in case of death. This is not meant to imply that you should deliver an ultimatum tomorrow that unless he promises to help freeze you, you will change doctors. Most physicians, in the immediate future, will be very skittish on the subject. But you should discuss it with him, make your views clear, make sure he informs himself on the subject, and maintain a judicious pressure. This kind of action, together with other developments, will assure that before too long there will be an ample choice of cooperative physicians. (It is not suggested that physicians are reactionary and ignorant and have to be led by the nose; but they naturally tend to be conservative, and they need to be informed both of specialized technical developments and of patient opinion.)
A whole crop of organizations will undoubtedly sprout in the fairly near future, offering various services, or a whole range of services, in connection with the freezer program. Perhaps some of them will be formed by morticians, or will be adapted from existing mortuary companies. But until commercial organizations are on the scene, people will have to hand together to form their own.
In union there is strength, and existing organizations, for example fraternal societies, could form committees and sub-organizations, possibly somewhat on the order of burial societies, to serve their members. The pool would provide moral, financial, and administrative support. All preparations would be made in advance, making the most and best of local conditions, and on the death or impending death of a member the organization would swing into action.
If in some cases it turns out to be awkward to work within existing organizations, then mutual aid societies can be formed
with this specific purpose, the usual legal precautions being observed.
Finally, another way the individual can help the general impetus is to write his life insurance company, inquiring about freezer insurance. Many companies already sell special-purpose policies, for example, with the proceeds ear-marked to pay off a mortgage. In logic, of course, this seems a little silly, since the beneficiary might as well simply have the additional funds, to apply as seems fit; but psychologically the companies find this device useful. Also, it is not clear that the life insurance companies would want, or would be legally able, to have a direct hand in physical freezer facilities. But the point is that there is an immense new market for life insurance, and when this is realized the life insurance companies are sure to exert heavy influence, directly or indirectly.
Emergency and Austerity Freezing
Many circumstances of death, in the near future, will pose a painful and nearly intractable problem for the next of kin. Substantial funds may be lacking; medical cooperation and hospital facilities may be lacking; death may come unexpectedly and the body may not be found immediately. What can be done in such cases, and how much hope do the possibilities afford?
The second question has already been discussed. In the worst cases, most scientists would doubtless characterize the chance of revival as remote or even vanishingly small; but this estimate is based on a feeling and not on a calculation.
The estimate can perhaps be regarded as depending on three factors. First, is the degeneration really irreversible in principle. Second, how nearly will technical feasibility approach theoretical possibility, looking into the indefinite future? Third, how likely
is it that historical developments will deny to the frozen the treatment technology could provide them?
It seems to me that at present we cannot make even a reasonable guess about the first two, while the third, based on discussion in later chapters, has a most hopeful answer. If this reasoning is correct, then estimating the chance as "remote" or "vanishingly small" represents nothing more than a vague and generalized pessimism, arising because many scientists are overawed by the apparent difficulties.
Even so, in the immediate future it would take an unusually strong and resourceful person, with nerves of steel, to undertake freezing singlehanded. If a mutual aid society, or even a coherent family, can work together, however, probably something can be done, and a few practical suggestions will now be offered.
It is understood that these suggestions do not constitute medical advice, carry no guarantee of any kind, and are not even claimed to represent a consensus of current opinion. They represent only the author's impressions, as of this writing, for whatever they may be worth. The reader is expected to seek other opinions, as recent and as authoritative as may be.
First, whoever is present at time of death, or soon after, should probably try to reduce the rate of deterioration by applying artificial respiration and external heart massage. (Tubes are available for mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration without actual contact; sources of information on these techniques can be obtained from physicians, druggists, and libraries.)
A physician should be called as quickly as possible to certify death. Then cooling and freezing should be accomplished by the best available means. Ice might be used at first if nothing else is at hand, or the body might be placed in a cold room in winter. Dry ice might be used next, being readily available in all cities during business hours, at a price currently of around 6 cents a pound or less. The body might be packed in dry ice chips, with blankets
to maintain contact and keep out the heat; or faster cooling might be accomplished by using one of various slushes of liquid chemicals mixed with dry ice.
A few words of caution should be inserted. Communicable diseases, of course, require special precautions. Water should not be allowed to get into the body cavities. Dry ice should be handled gingerly, or with gloves; and while carbon dioxide is not poisonous, if too much is used in too confined a space a lack of oxygen may result.
If the body is not discovered until it has begun to stiffen, the artificial respiration and heart massage are probably useless, since the blood vessels are clogged, and this part of the procedure would be omitted.
The problem of where to store the body is one the individual, family, or mutual aid society will have to solve. The question of a container and its cost and servicing will be touched upon in Chapter VII.
Freezing with Medical Cooperation
If medical help and hospital facilities can be obtained, the outlook is much brighter. Various possibilities have been alluded to in Chapter III, particularly that of perfusing the whole body with glycerol solution, along with supportive measures, before freezing the body with liquid nitrogen; this may afford the best chance at present to minimize - although by no means to eliminate - injury.
With a cooperative physician and careful advance preparation, obviously the odds will improve immensely. If the physician hesitates to work on the body himself, he might at least be willing to supervise preparation, have himself or an associate available in the hospital for a very quick finding of death, and train a mortician to do the actual work after death. The morti-
cian, of course, would also have to be quickly available - how quickly, would depend on the methods used; again refer to Chapter III. The state of the art is constantly improving, and new and better methods may be known by the time this book is in print.
Physicians may often be reluctant to cooperate in freezing for several reasons-generalized fear of criticism, fear that they lack competence in the techniques, and fear that all their dying patients will demand freezing. None the less, some physicians are willing to try desperate or experimental measures in otherwise hopeless circumstances, and it is possible to put the case in this light. That is, if the patient is in a hospital and known to be near death, the physician might be persuaded to give medical help on the basis of treatment.
We recall that "suspended animation" is ordinarily taken to mean freezing without damage, so the person is regarded as still alive, and capable of being revived at any time without waiting for new developments; this technique is not yet perfected. But we also recall the experiments with whole-body perfusion of rats, and other evidence suggesting that people could be cooled by passing cold glycerol solution through their circulatory systems, and then stored at low temperatures in relatively good condition, although at present we have no means safely to thaw them and remove the protective agents. It is possible, although not certain, that the greater part of the damage occurs in thawing and not in freezing; hence these patients, after freezing, need not definitely be considered dead, and their condition could be called "suspended animation".
Thus some courageous physicians, if persuaded by patient and family, might agree to freeze the subject before natural death, with all the advantages of deliberate preparation and a body in better condition; the purpose would be to reduce metabolism and preserve life while a cure was sought. No death certificate would be issued, and the freezee would remain a patient and not
a corpse, with various legal and practical advantages-and also, of course, some disadvantages.
A variation of this idea might be to have one physician certify death, after the patient expires, and a second physician immediately treat the body to prepare it for freezing, later certifying that in his opinion the patient may not be dead. The major biological advantage, of treating a fully living body, would be lost, to be sure, but this might be necessary to induce the physician to cooperate. The death certificate would help protect the second physician, while his doubt about the patient's death might be translated into legal life, although the earliest cases would involve protracted litigation.
Individual Responsibility: Dying Children
Many Americans and Europeans, as well as others, will very soon be called upon to make life or death decisions. Perhaps some are facing such decisions this very day, as you read these words.
Let us consider first the tenderest and least exculpable example; the impending death of a child.
Every year in the United States, over 150,000 children under nineteen are taken by death, often signalled well in advance as a result of incurable disease. In 1959, cancer alone claimed over 10,000. (124)
Until now, parents could only seek religious comfort, or compose their minds according to their resources. Now it is better, and of course worse. Better, because there is hope. Worse, because hope implies also trouble, turmoil, and the possibility of failure.
If an adult is dying, it can be argued that he should be allowed to make his own decision about freezing; and if he is of advanced age, the rationalization of a "full life already lived" can be used
to justify inaction. But in the case of a dying child, the parent cannot easily find shelter from his responsibility.
I realize very well the cruelty of adding to the burden of grief a further torment of difficult decision and a potential load of guilt. Many people will have no clear idea of what is right. On the one hand, it will seem to them, if they freeze the child their hopes may prove unfounded and they will have engaged in gruesome, bootless, agonizing and expensive sacrilege. On the other hand, they may find it hard to forgive themselves if they bury the child and the freezer program nevertheless gains acceptance. It is my view, of course, that the freezer program will become general and will prove successful, and that the price in money and temporary emotional upset is not too high.
The decision will necessarily be on an individual basis. Entering into it will be such considerations as estimate of the chances, advice by physicians and clergymen, the status of the freezer program in general, and the financial and emotional situation of the family.
Assuming parents find the strength and resources to freeze a child, and eventually see him safely in a permanent Dormantory, they will then have time to ponder some very disturbing questions. When will I see my child again? If I die at an advanced age, will my revival be more difficult than his, and hence later, and will he therefore be older and wiser than I when I awaken? Will the relation of parent and child be effectively reversed? Or will I be frozen by more advanced methods, and therefore revived first, as a physically young adult, and him later, still as a child?
One can only assume that society will gradually evolve a standard operating procedure for dealing with such matters wisely, taking into account both the wishes of the individuals involved and the welfare of the community.
Husbands and Wives, Aged Parents and Grandparents
If your husband or wife is dying, the problem is in some respects different. If the dying spouse wants to be frozen, clearly you should comply, even at substantial financial sacrifice. (One bows there may eventually be tax relief or subsidy for the families of the early frozen, who have not had the opportunity to buy freezer insurance policies.)
If your husband or wife is mentally competent but opposes freezing, a difficult moral problem arises. The easy way out is compliance and burial, but you will have to live with your conscience a long time. The key consideration, it seems to me, is that burial is final, whereas freezing commits one to nothing except a second chance; there is always time to bow out, if one should insist. You can change your mind after freezing, but not after burial.
In the case of an aged parent or grandparent, lacking in vigor and perhaps limited in understanding, there may again be an unwelcome responsibility. Should his decision prevail, or your judgment? Many circumstances will enter, as in the case of children. In addition, the responsibility may be split among several children who may not concur, and one must decide for himself how much effort conscience demands. But the rationalization of "a full life already lived" will not hold water: in the long view, eighty or ninety years is not a full life, but only a beginning.
Even before custom gives sanction, I believe a sufficient number of people will prefer beginnings to endings.
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