Cryonics is the low-temperature preservations of legally dead humans or pets with the hope that resuscitation in the future is possible. Fewer than 200 people have undergone the procedure since it was first proposed. This future resuscitation is aimed towards technology that can restore one to life, youth and health. Cryonicists are people who use or advocate cryonics in the hope of extending their life and youth once they have passed. The purpose of cryonics is to save the lives of living people, not inter the bodies of dead people. Through preserving sufficient cell structure and chemistry so that recover (including recovery of memory and personality) remains possible by foreseeable technology. Death is a neurological process that begins after the heart stops. A stopped heart only causes death if nothing is done when the heart stops. Cryonics proposes to do something. The purpose of cryonics is to save lives of the living people not dead people. Legally, in the United States, cryonics can only be applied to a person who has been pronounced dead by a health professional. No law allows freedom of choice in this matter. The usual point of judgment in determining death is by cessation of the heart. However, almost all cells of the body are generally still alive when death is pronounced. The main damage is always within the first hour after the heart stops. 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, days or weeks before attempting to slow tissue deterioration due to tissue damaging.
Cooling should begin immediately after the pronouncement of death. If so, tissue deterioration is minimized dramatically. Although cryonics preserves people at very low temperatures, it does not mean that cryonics patients have been frozen. Actual freezing involves the formation of ice, causing the crystals to be very damaging to the bodys tissues. Cryonics replaces the bodys water with an anti-freeze mixture called cryoprotectants. By injecting this biologic anti-freeze substance through blood vessels, most of the bodys water can be removed and replaced with this mixture. At very low temperatures ranging from -200F/-130c the cryoprotectants harden like glass, without forming the damaging crystals, and creating parts more plastic like. This process is known as Vitrification. Vitrification can preserve organs as large as the human brain, maintaining excellent structural preservation without the hazards of freezing.
The ideas of cryonics involve the proposal that people can be frozen and stored for periods of hundreds of years. Freezing it not a treatment for disease; but merely opens the possibility of future treatment to a patient. A close consideration of the kinds of disease from which we now suffer, and from which we will in future suffer, strongly suggest that freezing would yield very little real benefit to the frozen if we are only willing to contemplate freezing for short times of 20 years of so. Indeed, if we start to freeze people with the intent of doing so only for 28 years, we will be led to storing them for hundreds of years. The basic premise involves an uncertainty which no amount of purely technological discovers will removes at this time, even if someone is successfully frozen.
According to experts, there is no evidence that cryonics can work and is often regarded with skepticism. Cryonics is an interdisciplinary field based on three facts from diverse unrelated sciences and based off of theoretical future technologies. These three facts are: cells and organisms need not operate continuously to remain alive. Many living things can successfully be cryopreserved and revived. Secondly, existing cryopreservation techniques, while not yet reversible, can preserve the fine structure of the brain with remarkable fidelity. This is especially true for cryopreservation by vitrification. The observations of the first fact make clear that survival of structure, not function, determines survival of the organism. And last, it is now possible to foresee specific future technologies that will one day be able to diagnose and treat injuries right down to the molecular level. Without all these facts, cryonics seems ridiculous. Cryonics is definitely not guaranteed, and can fail in two ways. Either cryonics patients will not remain cryopreserved long enough to reach the medicine they need, or an insufficient record of their mind has been successfully cryopreserved. The risk of inadequate preservation may be ruled out completely within another decade if techniques for transplantable organ banking can be adapted to achieve reversible preservation of the brain. Unfortunately, the number of experts qualified to comment on cryonics is very small. Very few scientists even know what vitrification really is. Fewer know that vitrification can preserve cell structure of whole organs or brains. Vitrification is so uncommon and little is known that only a handful of cryobiologist know its possible, practice or study it. Because a case of cryonics has never been proven successfully, few scientist will support it. Even most cryobiologist do not publicly support cryonics.
When it comes to cryonics, most would say religion is a major factor. Those who believe in cryonics, often think the goal is to possibly overcome serious illness, by preserving and protecting life. Therefore, cryonicists believe it is consistent with the pro-life principles of both medicine and religion. Validation comes from the process in which cryonics happens. Because the insertion of cryoprotectants happens immediately after death and is intended for a later resuscitation it can be compared to hypothermia victims and other examples. Hypothermia victims have been revived after more than an hour without breathing, heartbeat, or brain activity. Deep cooling is sometimes use to turn off patients for long periods during neurosurgery when the heart must be stopped. And even human embryos are routinely cryopreserved and revived. If cryonics works, it will work because it is fundamentally the same as these forms of suspended animation that are already known in medicine. Patients in these states are understood to be in deep coma, not death. Cryonics patients are theologically equivalent to unconscious patients in a hospital with an uncertain prognosis. Many people who arrange to become a cryonics patient upon death, rather than be buried of created do not believe in the existence of a soul. However, many cryonicists do believe in a soul. If cryonics is simply an unproven medical procedure there is no more reason to believe that this should go away during cryopreservation than during a nights sleep soul. Just like the human embryos have been cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen for decades, many religious authorities still believe these embryos have a soul. The same could be said for cryopreserved cryonics patients. Cryonicists do not believe that medicine is in conflict with religion anymore than medicine is in conflict with religion. Cryonics patients are not regarded as dead by cryonicist.
More than a hundred people have been cryopreserved since the first case in 1967. More than one thousand people have made legal and financial arrangements for cryonics with one of several organizations, usually by means of affordable life insurance. Alcor, located in Scottsdale, AZ, founded in 1972 is the largest and most distinguished among cryonics organizations by its advanced technology and advocacy of a medical approach to cryonics. It is a non-profit organization authorized to accept anatomical donations under the provisions of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act for research purposes. As stated before, most people pay for cryonics with life insurance, but can be paid through trusts, annuities, prepaid cash and or annual payments. Organizations such as Alcor or the Cryonics Institute offer policies that range from $150,000 for the whole body preservation or a minimum of $80,000 for just the neuropreservation.
In conclusion, some people believe that cryonics is just another scam or fraud. If so, and cryonics is just another junk science, its practitioners, however, differ from the clairvoyant crowd in one crucial respect: the claims they make are fairly modest. As one Alcor brochure is careful to say, “We don’t know if what we are doing will work.” They can, and they do, point to signs of real progress in cryopreservation, while touting a future nanotechnology as the key to repairing damaged cells in, say, the next “5 to 150 years.” Even today, they note, we regularly “revive” people who previous generations would have abandoned. Meanwhile, past cryonicists sleep on, and no frozen dogs have yet come back from the dead. Will cryonics succeed in the end? It seems as though the odds are either all or nothing. The trouble is that betting on cryonics is rather more expensive. Although, Alcors 390 living members don’t seem to mind. Much of the money goes into a patient-care fund, which is essential. The facility is bare, the decor basic (framed pictures of the suspended). . It will probably never work, but, as cryonicists see it, what is the alternative? As Steve Bridge (advisor to Alcor’s Board of Directors) puts it, “The nice thing about life is that you never know what is going to happen next. The problem with death is that you do know what is going to happen next. Nothing.”
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