The Cryonics Institute’s 76th Patient: By Ben Best
The 76th patient of the Cryonics Institute was a 44-year-old man who had been rendered paraplegic by a motorcycle accident at the age of 18. He lived alone and he was alone when he deanimated on Christmas day. He had been seen at about 3pm, was discovered at about 6pm and time of deanimation was estimated to be around 4pm. He was found slumped-over in his 450-pound electric wheelchair, secured by his seat belt. Because his cause of death was unknown he became a coroner's case requiring autopsy.
The 76th patient was an Option Two Member who was fully funded by a $50,000 life insurance policy. The policy was more than two years old and would therefore pay-out irrespective of cause-of-death.
Both CI and patient's parents requested that the brain not be autopsied. We were told by the coroner that the brain would not be autopsied if not required, but that they could make no promises. The coroner did autopsy the brain, cutting it into pieces and placing them in the abdomen mixed-in with the other organs -- without having learned any more about the cause of death.
Alcor once had a patient who was autopsied and they fixed the brain pieces with formaldehyde and glutaraldehyde before soaking them in cryoprotectant and doing cryopreservation. CI Facilities Manager Andy Zawacki had requested that if the brain was removed for autopsy that it be saved in a separate bag. The coroner refused even to do this, indicating insensitivity (if not hostility) to our wishes and the wishes of the patient's parents. CI Members whose religious beliefs allow them to do so can include a "Certificate of Religious Belief and Religious Objection to Autopsy" in their executed paperwork -- especially Members living in the seven American states that limit the ability of a coroner to perform an autopsy of undetermined cause-of-death when religious objections to autopsy have been expressed (see Avoiding Autopsy for Cryonics). CI will attempt to provide legal assistance to CI Members who do not have such religious beliefs.
Insofar as brain perfusion was not possible, we had no option but to straight-freeze the body. Based on viability studies of straight-frozen single cells an optimum cooling rate would be between 1ºC/minute and 20ºC/minute. It is not possible to cool a human cryonics patient much faster than 1ºC/minute in our computer-controlled cooling box so we cooled as fast as we could. The core temperature did not cool more than 10ºC for the first 4.5 hours, but for a 1.5 hour period thereafter it cooled at more than 1.4ºC/minute. Temperature was ultimately brought down to nearly −195ºC before we transferred the patient to a cryostat.