When referring to cryonically suspension, the idea of low-temperature preservation of humans (and even animals) is evoked. The reason behind the thought of cryonically suspending and reanimating people is usually parallel to the fact that contemporary medicine cannot be of assistance; therefore, the cryonic suspension takes place in the hopes that a cure of said illness or disease, as well as resuscitation, will be possible in the future. This procedure introduces a lot of opinions, emotions, and questions. The most notable question asked: is this realistic? Let’s take a look at history.
James Bedford, a psychology professor in California, is believed to have been the first person whose body was cryonically suspended, or frozen. Suffering from kidney cancer that had begun taking over his lungs, Bedford was frozen just a few hours after his legal death. To this day, he remains “frozen” or more appropriately, cryopreserved. Through the years, a debate has formed due to the question: when is it accurate to begin freezing?
Some believe that the procedure of cryonics should begin within minutes of death or cardiac arrest, with the aide of cryoprotectants. However, another group’s beliefs differ, as it’s possible that the brain, memory, and personality may still be intact immediately following death. Therefore, the idea of waiting and preserving those who have been deceased longer is suggested.
Other issues arise when referring to cryonics and the idea of cryonically suspending a person. These issues usually focus on financial and legal topics. For example, the cost of cryonics not only varies for different services but can also become quite expensive. These services include but are not limited to: freezing of the head and brain only, freezing of the whole body, storage and transportation, and more. The legal question that becomes prominent is: are cryonic patients to be treated as dead or alive? At the current moment, those participating in cryonics are considered to be dead, but can later be declared legally alive.
Though films, television shows, and other pop culture products have referenced the idea of cryonics, what is the truth of the future? Discussing the revival of a cryonically suspended human being usually focuses on different subjects, such as bioengineering, molecular nanotechnology, and nanomedicine. The idea and success of revival depend on repairing the damage to lack of oxygen, as well as curing the disease that killed the patient in the first place. If the revival of people who have been cryonically suspended will even be possible one day, it is believed that it could and will take centuries.
As of today, The Cryonics Institute houses one hundred and three human patients, as well as seventy-six pets. Alcor, a cryonics facility located in Scottsdale, Arizona, houses one hundred and fifteen patients. There are known support groups all over the world, including Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and more.
Though the idea of cryonically suspending a human being offers much debate and opinion, there are certain factors that cannot be ignored when discussing this topic. These factors include, but are not limited to legal issues, financial obligations, finding an institute that supports the procedure, and coming to terms with the fact that revival may never actually be possible.