Because it is based on speculation about the capabilities of future science cryonics is not a science. Few scientists are qualified to say whether future science can or cannot realize the dream that motivates cryonics because scientists are only trained in current science. Many outstanding scientists have made false predictions about future technology. In 1885 Lord Kelvin declared that "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." A few decades ago nearly all scientists believed that cloning is impossible. Conversely, cryonicists cannot guarantee that cryonics will work. Only the future will tell whether the predictions of cryonicists are correct.
If cryonics works and a person has not been cryopreserved, that person has no chance of ever being restored to an enduring youthful and healthy condition. If cryonics does not work at any moment in time, it may be made to work in the future. Those who have been cryopreserved will simply wait.
Q. Why freeze dead people?
Legally, cryonics can only be applied to a person who has been pronounced dead by an authorized health professional. But the criterion for death is nearly always the cessation of heartbeat. Almost all cells of the body, including those in the brain are generally still alive when death is pronounced. The main damage within the first hour after the heart stops is due to clotting and blood vessel injury. It usually takes many hours for all cells to die at room temperature, including those in the brain.
Cryonicists, however, do not want to wait hours or days before attempting to slow tissue degradation. Cooling and, if possible, cardiopulmonary support (like CPR, but without intention to resuscitate), should be begun immediately or very soon following pronouncement of death. If all of the tissues in the body can be preserved by cooling soon after the heart stops, deterioration is minimized.
No one knows how much deterioration can happen after the heart stops before there is no hope of future life, youth and health. Cryonicists make best efforts to minimize tissue deterioration to maximize the future potential for life. For this reason, cryonicists refer to people who have been cryopreserved as patients, rather than as corpses. Cryonics is regarded as an experimental medical treatment, not as processing of the dead.
Just because cryonics preserves people at very low temperatures does not mean that cryonics patients have been frozen. Freezing involves the formation of ice, which can be very damaging to body tissues. Cryonics procedures involve replacing body water with anti-freeze mixtures called "cryoprotectants". By perfusing these biologic anti-freeze substances through blood vessels for a few hours most body water can be removed and replaced by cryoprotectant. At very low temperatures these cryoprotectants harden like glass, without forming damaging ice crystals. This glass formation is known as vitrification. Vitrification is an important part of the efforts of cryonicists to preserve people and pets in the best possible condition to maximize the chance of future youthful life.
Although cooling a human or animal to below −200ºF can potentially preserve them unaltered for thousands of years, this process can cause additional damage to that caused by aging and disease, such as damage due to thermal stress, cryoprotectant toxicity and even freezing damage when cryoprotectant perfusion is poor. But just as future medicine may be able to cure all disease and rejuvenate people to a youthful condition, future medicine may be able to repair damage associated with perfusion and cooling to extremely low temperatures.
Q. What happens to the soul of a cryonics patient?
Many people who arrange to become a cryonics patient upon death — rather than be buried or cremated — do not believe in the existence of a soul. But many cryonicists do believe in a soul. If cryonics is simply an unproven medical procedure there may be no more reason to believe that the soul goes away during cryopreservation than during a night's sleep. Human embryos have been cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen for decades, yet many religious authorities believe these embryos have a soul. The same could be said for cryopreserved cryonics patients.
Cryonics is not in conflict with religion any more than medicine is in conflict with religion. Heart transplantation extends human life and is fully compatible with religion. Similarly, cryonics may extend human life by preserving people for future medicine. Cryonics patients are not regarded as dead by cryonicists. Many cryonicists believe that extending human life is not in conflict with religion.
How long can future medicine potentially extend human life? Perhaps by hundreds or thousands of years or more. Plans of an omniscient God could not be thwarted by human efforts to extend human life hundreds or thousands of years. Hundreds or thousands of years is not a significant amount of time in the context of eternity. Some have said that to refuse new life extension technologies could be a sin comparable to suicide.
Q. What is the Cryonics Institute (CI)?
The Cryonics Institute is a membership organization composed of Members who want to make cryonics arrangements for themselves and for their loved-ones. The Cryonics Institute began operation in 1976 under the leadership of Robert Ettinger, widely regarded as "the father of cryonics". CI is currently located in Clinton Township, Michigan, a northeast suburb of Detroit. For regulatory purposes, the Cryonics Institute is a licensed cemetery in the State of Michigan, although the authorities are fully aware that cryonics does not comfortably fit into the cemetery pigeon-hole. To the Members of CI, the Cryonics Institute is more like a hospital.
The Cryonics Institute is a non-profit corporation wholly owned by the Members and run by a Board of Directors who select Officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Four of the twelve Directors are elected by CI Members before the Annual General Meeting each year.
What drives CI is not the profit motive, but the survival motive. CI Members join because they want much longer living time for themselves and for their loved-ones to find and fulfill their destiny in life. CI Members are like people building their own lifeboats. With around a thousand CI Members in the world and less than a few thousand people who might call themselves "cryonicists" we must bootstrap our survival through cryonics. We want to arrive in the future with as many of our friends, family and fellow cryonicists as we can bring on our lifeboat.
The Cryonics Institute has a few employees, but CI also has contractors and a large number of volunteers, including the Directors and Officers, who devote a great deal of unpaid working time to the Cryonics Institute. CI's vitrification solution was developed by Dr. Yuri Pichugin, PhD, a professional cryobiologist who was CI's Director of Research.
The Cryonics Institute works closely with the Immortalist Society (IS). Every two months IS publishes a magazine called LONG LIFE which reports on CI activities as well as on other subjects of interest to cryonicists and life-extensionists.
Cryonics patients destined for storage at CI are perfused and vitrified by a local funeral director at his nearby funeral home in accordance with the cemetery laws of Michigan. Then the patients are brought to the CI Facility where they are cooled to liquid nitrogen temperature in our computer-controlled cooling box. The patients are then transferred to one of our cryostats for long-term storage. A cryostat is like a big thermos bottle where patients are stored in a center portion containing liquid nitrogen. As with a thermos bottle, surrounding the center portion is a vacuum chamber.
Over 100 patients are currently in storage at CI. Unlike other cryonics organizations, which cryopreserve human heads, the Cryonics Institute only allows its Members to arrange for whole body cryopreservation. CI Members can cryopreserve their pets, and we have many pets currently in low-temperature storage. We also offer DNA and tissue cryopreservation to our Members.
The Cryonics Institute does not offer Standby or Transport as part of its service. A CI Member living outside of Michigan will be packed in ice by a local funeral director for low-temperature shipment of his or her body to Michigan. Some funeral directors will charge a fee to do Standby, ie, stand by the Member's bedside during a terminal illness in order to be able to act as quickly as possible when the heart stops and death is pronounced. Standby and Transport can also be purchased at extra cost from the cryonics organization Suspended Animation, Inc., with whom CI has a contract. Suspended Animation has custom-made equipment for rapid ice-water cool-down and simultaneous application of cardio-pulmonary support. They also have expertise in blood washout and cryonics Transport.
Q. What are the procedures to become a CI Member and to make cryonics arrangements with CI?
To make cryonics arrangements with CI you must first become a CI Member. Becoming a CI Member simply means paying a membership fee and completing an application form which contains all the necessary information required for the cryonics contracts. Cryonics arrangements are complete when the required contracts have been executed and funding is in place.
There are two classes of CI Membership. A Lifetime Member pays a one-time fee of $1,250 and can arrange for cryopreservation at CI for $28,000, usually by making CI the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. Other close family members can join for an additional $625 (there is no charge for minor children). A Yearly Member pays a $75 initiation fee plus $120 yearly (or $35 quarterly) and can arrange for cryopreservation at CI for $35,000. Every Yearly Membership family member must pay the same price. Neither of these fees include the cost of preparation or shipment by a local funeral director, which must be arranged separately (often with a Local Help Rider).
Our goal is to maintain our patients in liquid nitrogen for as long as is necessary. CI's hope is that maintenance costs would be covered by interest from principal (capital), not from the principal itself. If and when technology permits revival of cryonics patients, hopefully the capital can be used to pay for the repair, rejuvenation and revival costs.
When the Member is ready to sign the cryopreservation contracts, these are custom-printed using the information provided on the membership forms and mailed to the Member for completion. Core documents include the Cryonic Suspension Agreement, the Uniform Donor Form and the Next-of-Kin Agreement. The contracts must be witnessed or notarized so that there can be no doubt about a CI Member's desire for cryonics arrangements. It is valuable (but not always essential) for cryonicists that their next-of-kin are informed and will not interfere (at worst) or will lend assistance (at best) in implementing cryonics arrangements when and if the time comes to implement them.
Funding must be arranged in advance. Most often funding is arranged by means of life insurance, which makes the cost affordable by most people. In some cases Members fund by full prepayment or by Transfer on Death accounts. Those who prepay are guaranteed against possible future price increases.
Q. Where can I get more information about cryonics and Cryonics Institute?
The best source of information about the Cryonics Institute is our website: www.cryonics.org . The Site Contents page gives a good overview of information available on the website. The Frequently Asked Questions page is often a good place to start.
To become a Member, you need only pay a Membership fee and complete an application form. Details can be found on our Membership Application page .
CI Members automatically receive a copy of LONG LIFE magazine, and non-Members can receive the magazine by subscription. To subscribe, to join or for more information about CI call us at (586) 791-5961 or send e-mail to CIHQ@aol.com .