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Shipping of Cryonics Patients and Pets

Shipping of Cryonics Patients

Delta Airlines has a hub in Detroit, Michigan so Delta has the most direct flights to the airport that services the Cryonics Institute, the Detroit Metro Airport (DTW). Shipment of human remains by Delta is through "Delta Cares". There is a 500 pound limit for human remains on narrow-bodied Delta aircraft, but for wide-bodied aircraft it is possible to pay extra for shipments over 500 pounds. Narrow-bodied aircraft would be more likely for direct flights coming from smaller cities.


Timely shipment of cryonics patients is a critical problem. It can easily happen that a standby team can respond immediately after pronouncement of death with CardioPulmonary Support, rapid cool-down, blood replacement with organ preservation solution, etc — but if cardiac arrest has occurred on a Friday afternoon and the cryonics patient was not in Michigan (or Arizona for Alcor) the patient would likely wait on ice the entire weekend before shipping permits could be obtained.


If a cryonics patient deanimates outside North America a flight cannot be arranged before approval for shipment has been received from the American Consulate, which usually means that even in the best of circumstances approval and flight cannot occur on the same day. Newer regulations requiring delivery of original documents (rather than FAXed documents) to the American Consulate have slowed the approval process. Weekends and holidays add to the delay.

Typically, the death certificate must be filed and a transit permit must be issued by a government agency (the health department often issues the transit permits) which is only open on business days during business hours. The offices of medical examiners are often open until noon on Saturday, so it is sometimes possible to get a coroner to issue a transit permit on a Saturday morning.

Regulations specific to states, counties and cities within the United States can vary, often creating additional problems and less often making things easier. CI's 75th patient deanimated on a weekend in a Chicago hospital. But Chicago regulations do not allow removal of a body from a hospital until the death certificate has been filed. The death certificate could only be signed by the family physician, and the family physician could not be reached on the weekend or soon enough for filing to be made before Tuesday. A similar problem happened with CI's 82nd patient who was in a jurisdiction where the family physician needed to sign the death certificate before it could be filed. In that case the family physician was on vacation. The physician was finally located, and she authorized someone else in her clinic to sign the death certificate. On the other hand, CI's 84th patient deanimated on a Saturday, but was fortunate enough to be in a jurisdiction where the funeral director could issue the transit permit — so she was shipped from Boston on the weekend.

Alcor can often circumvent the transit permit problem by removing the head of a neuro patient and shipping the head to Alcor while the body waits for the transit permit. The head is regarded as a tissue sample, and does not require a transit permit to cross state lines. The Cryonics Institute does not offer a "neuro" option, therefore every CI patient not living in Michigan must wait for a transit permit to be shipped.

On rare occasions authorities at a local airport can impose additional problems, as happened in the case with CI's 82nd patient when an airport official refused to allow shipment if a single ice cube was found in the shipping container. The patient had to be shipped with cold gel packs.

Typically a CI patient is shipped in a Ziegler case (a water-tight metallic shipping box used by funeral directors) that contains the patient in a body bag that is stuffed with as much ice as possible. The Ziegler case is lined on the inside with foam insulation. Ice is also loaded outside the body bag. The Ziegler has a rubber gasket around the lid, and the lid is screwed tight on the ribber gasket to prevent leakage of water. The Ziegler sits on a wooden air-tray (air shipping tray) and is surrounded by a cardboard box. Pink "wool" insulation should be stuffed between the cardboard box and the Ziegler to prevent water condensation on the Ziegler from wetting the cardboard (and to further insulate the patient).

The cardboard box on the air-tray should be marked "Do Not Freeze". CI's 87th patient was frozen when received, which made perfusion difficult because freezing damages blood vessels. When perfusion is not possible a patient may be shipped in dry ice, as was the case with CI's 80th patient. When shipping a cryonics patient by airline on dry ice, shipping regulations allow no more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of dry ice. Containers with dry ice cannot be shipped in the same cargo hold as pets or biological materials that could be suffocated.

Every effort should be made to arrange direct flights in shipping a cryonics patient. CI's 87th patient was shipped to Detroit from Melbourne, Australia, spending an hour at the Sydney airport, six hours at the Los Angeles airport and seven-and-a-half hours at the Chicago airport before arriving in Michigan.

The are three directories that list national (and some international) funeral director services. These all have color names: the Red Book, the Yellow Book, and the Blue Book

At CI we have a copy of the Yellow Book, which contains detailed listings of funeral services available in every state, where the states are listed alphabetically in the white pages. In the back of the book there is a "yellow pages" which lists specialized services. Both Alcor and CI are listed under "cryonics suspension". Another two categories are "Shipping/embalming services" and "Transportation of human remains", the only difference between the two being whether embalming is part of the package. I have never used the Yellow Book.

The two largest firms in the United States that specialize in shipment of human remains are Inman Shipping and National Mortuary Shipping  (NMS). Inman is slightly larger than NMS. Inman has 450 agents in the United States, and CI's funeral director Jim Walsh is one of those agents. A funeral director need not use the services of Inman or NMS to do shipping, but those companies greatly simplify the process at competitive prices. The shipping companies file the necessary documents, make arrangements with airlines, and provide air-trays as well as other equipment.

Patient care is best for cryonics patients who do not need to cross national or interstate borders in order to be cryopreserved. But few cryonicists choose to leave their family, friends and local home, hospital or hospice when they are in a terminal condition. Cryonicists living outside the United States often think that they can move to the US if they become terminal, but the US immigration authorities create problems for visitors wanting to come to the US when in a terminal condition or afflicted with obvious health problems. CI struggled with this issue for one of our overseas patients who deanimated before we could get to the bottom of the matter.

Within the United States, although a terminally ill person could not travel on a conventional airline, such a person could use an air ambulance. The company US Air Ambulance offers not only air ambulence, but ground ambulance service. Charges are on a per-mile basis, and for long distances an air ambulance could be less expensive than a ground ambulance.

When human patients (or pet patients) are shipped on dry ice, there must be a vent hole in the shipping container. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, and as it warms it turns into a gas. If there is no vent hole, the pressure will build up and make the container burst. More likely the container will swell and pressure will escape around the seals, but a vent hole of about a quarter inch in diameter should be made on the top of the container to ensure the gas can escape. When CI receives patients from Europe in dry ice they often have a pressure releasing device, such as a check valve, placed in the top of the casket to relieve pressure. If there is no check valve, a quarter inch hole drilled in the top of the shipping container will ensure that there is no dangerous build-up of pressure.

There are now plans by various overseas cryonicists to vitrify overseas and ship in dry ice. Dry ice shipment might be adequate if there is good perfusion with CI−VM−1, but if perfusion does not achieve good saturation the prospect of devitrification (freezing) with dry ice shipment increases. Shipping in liquid nitrogen from overseas would be expensive and difficult. Shipment would have to be by boat and someone would need to accompany the shipping cryostat/dewar to ensure that the liquid nitrogen does not boil-off, or that other problems occur. Cryonics UK has purchased CI−VM−1 for use prior to dry ice shipping. F.A. Albin & Sons also has CI-VM-1 for use on cryonics patients.

In Europe both F.A. Albin & Sons and Rowland Brothers International have had experience with shipping cryonics patients to the United States.

In addition, CI has instructed F.A. Albin & Sons to perform cryonics procedures in the European area. Albin & Sons, which has been in business for over 217 years, can use light private aircraft to reach members at any point in the European continent (and indeed adjoining areas in East Europe, Russia, and the Middle East) and provide cryonics services.

After performing the procedure, Albin & Sons can cool the patient down and transport the patient by plane or ship to CI's storage facility in the United States. Members may choose the services either of Albin & Sons or a nearer individual, or be helped by the coordinated efforts of both.

Albin & Sons can be reached by contacting Barry Albin at:

F. A. Albin & Co
AArthur Stanley House, Culling Road
London SE16 2TN, UK
PHONE: 071-237-3637,
071-237-2600 or
FAX: 071-252-3205

Rowland Brothers International has also had experience with cryonics patients, and they are not very expensive.


According to the Hazardous Materials office of the International Air Transport Association (IATA Hazmat is located in Montreal, Canada), maximum allowed dry ice on an airplane is 200 kilograms per package, with no limit on the number of packages. Individual airlines have total maximums allowable for any one flight. Continential airlines, for example, will allow up to 1,000 kilograms on their Boeing 777. Delta airlines, which has the most direct flights to Detroit airport, will allow up to 100 kilograms on their narrow-bodied aircraft and up to 200 kilograms on their wide-bodied aircraft. For the narrow-bodied aircraft, individual containers are limited to 50 kilograms for a large DC 9 and a 40 kilogram limit for a small DC 9. Delta reserves the right to switch aircraft at the last minute, so a 40 kilogram limit should be assumed. With good insulation, and "thermal ballast", 40 kilograms has proven to be plenty of dry ice for shipment of a cryonics patient within the United States on a direct flight to Detroit. Good insulation means, in part, foamboard insulation between the airtray and the Ziegler shipping box, as well as on the sides of the Ziegler case on the outside. "Thermal ballast" means water ice pre-cooled to dry ice temperature that is added to dry ice inside the Ziegler case.

An airline in the United States may require a Shipper's Declaration for Dangerous Goods. Dry ice is classified as a dangerous good. The FedEx Dangerous Goods Non-Radioactive Acceptance Checklist can be helpful in completing this form. For dry ice, the proper shipping name will be "carbon dioxide, solid". Dry ice is class 9, UN number UN1845, packing number 111, and should have packing instruction 904.

Shipping of Deanimated Pets


Pets are often shipped in water ice within the USA to the Cryonics Institute for perfusion at CI. As regulations have tightened, courier companies have become insistent on only allowing a "known shipper" to ship a pet. Federal Express has their own airplanes and should have greater discretion in the kinds of shipment they allow, but that carrier has become increasingly difficult about shipping deceased animals. Although FedEx uses their own planes for next day shipment, they use commercial airlines for same day shipment. Sterling Courier Systems (a subsidiary of Quick International Courier specializing in shipping organ tissue) and Argents Express have been more accommodating, but they are subject to the rules and whims of whatever airlines they use. A CI Member wishing to ship with these carriers can use the fact that CI is a known shipper — shipping on CI's account. CI may call ahead of time to set up flights for same-day shipping, but only if the CI Member pre-pays for the shipping. Sterling Courier does not have offices in all cities where packages can be delivered, and Sterling will only pick-up from a business address, not residential addresses. Argents will handle shipments from outside the United States, but Sterling will only ship deceased animals within the United States.

The pet should be packed in ice — at least 1.5 times the pet's weight — sealed with the pet in a watertight bag (containing some water) in a picnic cooler that is sealed watertight with duct tape. The quantity of ice required will depend on the duration of the flight. An airline may require that gel packs be used rather than water ice. Airline officials can seem very capricious in their rules, particularly where shipping of legally dead pets is concerned. In some cases officials may demand a death certificate or some kind certification that the pet did not die of an infectious disease. This requirement may be met by submission of a Shipper's Declaration of Non-Infectious Substances Form. Officials may also require that an igloo cooler rather than a styrofoam cooler be used. It is best to have a cardboard box around the cooler, and stuff crumpled newpapers between the cooler and the cardboard so that the cooler does not get bounced-around inside the box. Determine the dimensions of the box and the approximate weight so this information can be given to the courier company. If contracts are to be shipped with the pet, ensure that the contracts are in airtight (ziplock) bags that cannot become wet or moistened.

USA shipping with dry ice as baggage may be up to a maximum of 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) with Continental Airlines or American Airlines — or as little as a maximum of 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds) with Southwest Airlines provided the baggage is vented. For quantities of dry ice over these limits the shipment is regarded as "hazardous material" and must be made treated as cargo rather than as baggage —requiring earlier check-in and later release (longer total shipping time). Pets can often be shipped with under two kilograms of dry ice. The pet must be placed in a watertight (e.g.,ziplock) bag, and packed into a styrofoam cooler with the dry ice. The cooler is then packed in a cardboard box, preferably with water-absorbent material (cotton wool) between the two containers — although this may not be required. The words "dry ice" or "carbon dioxide, solid" are often required on a label on the container.

International air shipment guidelines are set by the International Air Transport Association. The IATA mandates that, when allowed, infectious substances must be packed in dry ice. Maximum quantity of dry ice allowed by IATA rules in one container is 200 kilograms. But airlines and countries may have more restrictive regulations.

Shipment of a cat or dog (dead or alive) to the United States requires clearance by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Clearance can be given if there is documentation that the pet was not exposed to livestock or poultry or agricultural infectious agents. Documentation concerning vaccinations and some kind of death certificate may also be required by the CDC. Otherwise, the CDC can be satisfied if the USDA has been satisfied.