Frequently Asked Questions
Common sense answers to some of the most common questions about cryonics.
Cryonics is a technique intended to hopefully save lives and greatly extend lifespan. It involves cooling legally-dead people to liquid nitrogen temperature where physical decay essentially stops, in the hope that future scientific procedures will someday revive them and restore them to youth and good health. A person held in such a state is said to be a "cryopreserved patient", because we do not regard the cryopreserved person as being inevitably "dead".
Legally, not yet. We hope that one day it will be, under carefully controlled conditions, for terminally ill patients.
But this is not critical to the premise of cryonics. At legal death, most of a person's tissues are still alive. Thousands of people have been revived after they have stopped breathing or their hearts have stopped.
Legal death is the point at which - under the current state of medical science - the doctor gives up. But just as many people living today have been revived after what would have been considered irreversible death even 50 years ago, the doctors of the future will not give up so quickly. Cryonics attempts to transport our patients - preserved at or near the instant of legal death - to those doctors for treatment.
We believe that revival is a real possibility because:
- Many biological specimens have been cryopreserved, stored at liquid nitrogen temperature where all decay ceases, and revived; these include whole insects, vinegar eels, many types of human tissue including brain tissue, human embryos which have later grown into healthy children, and a few small mammalian organs. Increasingly more cells, organs and tissues are being reversibly cryopreserved.
- The repair capabilities of molecular biology and nanotechnology increasingly point to a future technology that can repair damage due to aging, disease and cryonic suspension.
- Current progress in stem cell tissue regeneration, 3D biological printers and other advanced technologies convinces many experts that we might be able to revive people in a healthy and youthful state when these technologies mature.
Not to cryogenic temperatures. Dogs and monkeys have had their blood replaced with protective solution and cooled to below 0ºC, with subsequent rewarming and revival. Nematode worms have been cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen (−196ºC), and subsequently revived. At the July 2005 Society for Cryobiology Conference, it was announced that a rabbit kidney had been completely vitrified to solid state at −135ºC, rewarmed and transplanted to a rabbit with complete viability. Although a whole mammal has not yet been cryopreserved to cryogenic temperatures and revived, science is moving in that direction.
However, the success of cryonics does not depend on the status of current cryopreservation technology. We believe that the damage caused by current cryopreservation is limited and can someday be repaired in the future. Molecular repair technologies like nanotechnology will provide techniques in the future that are not available today.
The cryonic cryopreservation state is sometimes described as "cryonic suspension," because the patient's state is unchanging and therefore "suspended in time." However, cryopreservation is not "suspended animation" in the sense of being reversible by current technology.
We don't believe so. Cryonics is based on the evidence of emerging technologies that are in development today. This includes nanotechnology — the manipulation of individual atoms or molecules, which we believe will eventually allow mankind to build or repair virtually any physical object, including human cells and biological tissue.
When will that happen? Robert A. Freitas, author of three-volume text Nanomedicine — selections from which are available via our Links page — has publicly stated, "I would not be surprised if the first cryonics revival was attempted by 2040-2050." Of course, no one can reliably predict such dates, and we don't rely on any particular prediction.
Dr. Ralph Merkle, in his essay 'The Molecular Repair Of The Brain', observes, "Interestingly (and somewhat to the author's surprise) there are no published technical articles on cryonics that claim it won't work...A literature search on cryonics along with personal inquiries has not produced a single technical paper on the subject that claims that cryonics is not feasible. On the other hand, technical papers and analyses of cryonics that speak favorably of its eventual success have been published. It is unreasonable, given the extant literature, to conclude that cryonics is unlikely to work."
Notable technical papers which provides scientific evidence for the feasibility of cryonics are: ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES; Lemler,J; 1019:559-563 (2004) and REJUVENATION RESEARCH; Best,B; 11(2):493-503 (2008).
Good news: you heard wrong! With CI, the minimum fee for cryopreservation at CI (which includes vitrification perfusion and long term storage) is $28,000 — a one-time fee, due at time of death. And though the fee can be paid in cash, usually a member has a life insurance policy made that pays the amount to CI upon death. A term life insurance policy in the amount of the minimum fee often costs around $30 per month for a person starting their policy in good health at middle age. Funding at a higher level can be used to defray additional costs, including transportation (which is not included in CI’s base fee) or even a cryonics standby team to perform rapid cooling and cardiopulmonary support upon pronouncement of death.
Advice from an insurance professional is recommended before selecting a policy.
A person who wishes to become a Lifetime CI Member can make a single membership payment of $1,250 with no further payment required. If a new member would rather pay a smaller amount up front, in exchange for funding a slightly higher cryopreservation fee later on ($35,000), he or she can join with a $75 initiation fee, and pay annual dues of only $120, which are also payable in quarterly installments of $35. (And such a dues-paying member can upgrade to Lifetime Membership at any time, saving $7,000 and future any dues.) Members at a distance may have to pay local funeral director fees and transportation costs to Michigan to be cryopreserved. These payments are not made to CI, and are not included in the figures outlined above.
Take a look at our Membership FAQ and the membership application forms to find out more. And if you've got any questions, or want to talk about making special arrangements? Give us a call at (586) 791-5961 or drop us an email at CIHQ@aol.com. We're more than happy to help.
Prices vary greatly. CI has by far the lowest prices of any cryonics organization. Our procedures are deliberately cost-conscious, but they are based on experiments and professional evaluation, and in our judgment likely to give our patients the best chance possible for future recovery.
Prices with other organizations can be as much as $200,000 or more for whole body cryopreservation and $80,000 for a "neuro" (head-only) option. With CI, a whole body cryopreservation costs as little as $28,000.00, rendering an alternative "neuro" option unnecessary.
"Neuro" is short for neurocryopreservation, and it refers to the practice of removing and cryopreserving only the head of a person declared legally dead. The theory is that only the information contained in the brain is of any importance, and that a new body could be cloned or regenerated at some point in the future.
Neurocryopreservation requires less space and maintenance, and so costs less. But our price for whole-body preservation is already lower than what other providers charge for a 'neuro', so cost isn’t a factor. We do not offer the neuro option because we believe that whole body preservation could certainly enhance the chances of successful revival. We are also concerned about neuro's negative effect on the public’s perception of cryonics and, especially, because of the negative impact on the families of patients.
Journalists and horror novelists invariably have a field day with "frozen severed heads," and focus not on the scientific or humanitarian purposes of cryonics, but on sensationalizing cryonics as grotesque or ridiculous. Our policy to always preserve the entire body prevents anyone from leveling those claims at CI.
If you have — or expect to have — sufficient assets in any form, we may be able to work something out. Our members include attorneys and estate planners who are no strangers to creative financing.
If by "dead" you mean "clinically dead", without heartbeat or breathing, then "raising the dead" is done every day, thousands of times every year, in hospitals all over the world. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR — developed in the 1950's — quite commonly restores life to people who were once considered (wrongly) to be absolutely and irretrievably dead. This technique is standard practice today.
If we can today restore life to people who have been "dead" for several minutes, and even hours in some drowning cases, far more should be achievable in the future, especially if the patient has been cryopreserved.
"Absolute" death may only be said to occur when the brain's essential information is destroyed — and brain preservation is precisely what cryopreservation aims to achieve.
As for having a fatal disease — as science progresses, fatal diseases become formerly fatal diseases. Polio and bubonic plague were fatal diseases once; they — and hundreds of other diseases — are not fatal now. Many qualified people think that cures for currently fatal diseases — including old age — are only a matter of time.
It isn't necessary to wait until "every" disease imaginable is cured, all at one stroke. What you really need to do to make cryonics itself work is to cure or prevent freezing damage. Methods for reducing freezing damage including controlled cooling and vitrification are already in place, and we continue to make progress with ongoing research.
As improved cryopreservation methods, including improved methods of vitrification, are developed, there will be less burden on future technology, hence hopefully earlier revival. Vitrification means formation of a glasslike solid as temperature falls. This stops the formation of ice crystals that may damage tissues, thus reducing freezing damage. The Cryonics Institute vitrified its first human patient in the summer of 2005 (see The Cryonics Institute's 69th Patient).
Yes. See Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics in which 60 eminent scientists affirm that "cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor". Note that cryonics is science-based, but cannot correctly be called current science. Cryonics is based on expectations of the repair capabilities of future science. The same could be said, for example, of possible human habitation of Mars. Both involve projections of future capabilities based on the capabilities of current science.
No. Cryonics is a matter of rational procedure, not religious miracle. Cryonics can't restore life to people whose brains have been long been physically destroyed — a Lincoln, or a Julius Caesar, or those cremated. Cryonics simply — but reasonably — claims that if you cryopreserve a person in a way that limits damage, then that person's brain structure may be preserved sufficiently to make the eventual recovery of life and health at least possible.
And let's not be confused by language. "Dead" people — apparently dead people, no heartbeat or respiration — are revived every year, in hospitals all over the world, by the thousands. The dictionary definition of "death" is permanent cessation of vital functions. Therefore, if someone, even after cryopreservation, has recovered, that means the person wasn't "really" dead in the first place. We think that's the best way to look at it.
Sadly, we can't. No one can guarantee success, because no one can guarantee the future. No one can predict scientific progress with certainty. We believe that a very strong case can be made for the probable success of cryonics. But that doesn't mean that social disruptions aren't possible. Nuclear war, economic collapse, political strife and terrorism, are all possible, and they could end the lives of cryopreserved patients just as easily as they can end the lives of any of us.
One thing we can guarantee is that if you don't sign up for cryonics is that you will have no chance at all of being revived in the future.
The oldest patient currently still being held in cryopreservation is Dr. James Bedford, who was cryopreserved in 1967. He has survived the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Watergate, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks — which is more than many of his contemporaries can say. The world is (relatively) stable at the moment, global world war doesn't seem likely, and the economy is relatively stable.
We can't guarantee the future. But we can and do guarantee this: that at CI we will give our very best efforts to see our member patients are restored to life and good health. The life of every director and officer and member of CI depends on those same efforts.
MORAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Cryonics is strongly consistent with the pro-life views of Christianity and other religions that value the sanctity of human life. Noted Christian theologian John Warwick Montgomery has written favorably about cryonics ("Cryonics and Orthodoxy," Christianity Today, 12, 816 (1968)), there have been positive sermons about cryonics, and even one of the earliest cryopreservations in 1969 was consecrated by a Catholic priest (Cryonics Reports, Vol. 4, No. 9-10, 1969). Whenever negative views have been expressed, they are almost always based on the mistaken belief that cryonics is attempting resurrection. Cryonics is a form of life support, not resurrection. We expect that cryonics, like surgical suspended animation and hypothermia rescue, will eventually be fully embraced by Christians as it becomes clear that cryonics is simply another medical technology.