X-Message-Number: 12184
From: "George Smith" <>
References: <>
Subject: Re: Brain-only preservation.
Date: Sat, 24 Jul 1999 21:13:16 -0700

Just wanted to add a couple points to the discussion.

(1) In the military where I assisted in autopsies almost daily for three
years, the brain was always removed and only in the rarest of circumstances
was it replaced in the body due to extreme religious preferences on the part
of the service member or family (it was placed into the abdominal cavity).
Never heard any negative feedback regarding this issue from any family
member during those three years.

I would suspect that the situation in the civilian world is probably not all
that different - especially if there is an autopsy performed.  At the
funeral there is nothing different to notice, of course.

In this sense there probably is little social concern over the brain being
removed for preservation.  The deceased' face and body are there to be
"viewed" in the funeral as usual.  The family's needs are met well by this.

(2) Part of my military pathology work was to remove the brain for later
sectioning and slide preparation.  The greatest damage to the brain in this
procedure came from the initial opening of the skull with the electric saw
during  which sometimes the brain was also cut, and the need to sever the
spinal cord to permit extraction sometimes was difficult as well with
peripheral damage resulting.  Of course there is the obvious issue of what
additional trauma is imposed from simply handling the brain in its removal,
and I cannot speculate on the degree of damage which might result though I
suspect it to be quite minimal.

(3) Removing the human brain is, however, a relatively quick (five minutes
usually) procedure and one which at least military pathologists are
accustomed to performing.  While the attitude of a pathologist toward "dead"
tissue samples is less than that of a surgeon in dealing with a living
surgery patient, neither is it careless.  Pathologists do not want to damage
the organs they remove for evaluation in an autopsy and are quite careful.
This fact alone causes me to consider a brain-only preservation more
reasonable than not.

Again, it is an issue in my mind of expediancy and not merely cost.  It is
the cultural issues which are paramount here, in my opinion.  If the culture
gives you too much trouble because the choice is too "alien" to customary
funerary practices, you can end up not getting frozen at all.  That's the
major reason I feel that the whole-body approach is the very, very best.  It
clashes the least with what is acceptable in our culture.  Removing and
preserving the brain, however, does seem to run a close second in terms of
what is acceptable. After all, i can assure you that far, far more brains
are extracted and preserved in formalin than the few humans suspended
cryonically.  Head-only makes much scientific sense but is probably one of
the most difficult hurtles to overcome from a cultural standpoint.

Just some thoughts.

George Smith
Cryonics Institute member

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