X-Message-Number: 22730
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 13:19:37 -0400 (EDT)
From: Charles Platt <>
Subject: freebies

From yesterday's CryoNet:

> Why don't Alcor or CI offer this woman suspension. The pr
> for cryonics will be incredible. Why not establish a
> cryonics fund for her. I am willing to donate a hundred
> dollars. Maybe much more later on."

Here are the problems, some of which are typical of
last-minute cases involving nonmembers.

1. Lack of informed consent. No one seems to have durable
power of attorney for health care, and the woman has been
judged (by some) to be still alive. Apparently she expressed
no prior interest in cryonics. Personally I have never felt
comfortable about any case in which the preferences of the
patient were questionable and could not be resolved. After
she dies, next-of-kin (husband) would have control over
disposition of remains, but that gets us to the next problem:

2. Almost certainly hostile relatives. If they don't want her
disconnected from life support, probably for religious
reasons, they are unlikely to want her cryopreserved. Even if
the husband were strongly in favor (which is unknown) you
could expect a nasty, expensive, well publicized battle for
custody (Ted Williams revisited). Cryonics should be seen as
a desired option that makes people happy, not as a
contentious issue which causes backlash.

3. Brain damage. I believe that in a case where substantial
brain damage has occurred as a result of ischemia, it is
questionable that cryonics should be used (unless the patient
has expressed a strong prior preference), for just the same
reasons that it is questionable whether life support should
be continued. Bear in mind that some forms of ischemic injury
would be harder to repair with nanotechnology than freezing
damage, since cells may have self-destructed and may no
longer exist.

4. Publicity that is likely to be damaging. I don't think
this is a good time to raise the issue of "When is a dead
person _irrevocably_ dead?" The current medical definition of
death enables cryonics procedures to be applied which would
be impossible if the definition were broadened so that anyone
with probably viable brain structure were considered to be
alive, even in the absence of pulse, respiration, and brain
activity. I'd like to let that sleeping dog lie.

5. Uncertainty about funding.

Overall, the most highly desirable cryonics case always is
one in which the patient made his/her intentions clear while
legally competent to do so, made appropriate financial
arrangements in advance, and is accessible to the cryonics
organization ASAP after death has been pronounced
unambiguously by an independent physician or hospice nurse.

Historically, when an organization has been tempted to
deviate from this model, it has tended to experience problems
which at the very least have taken valuable time and money.

Also as a general rule the impulse to take high-profile cases
for the sake of publicity is questionable, because I have
never seen any one-shot publicity that has caused a
substantial and obvious increase in membership. This even
applied in the case of Dr. James Bedford (the first cryonaut)
which was featured on TV, in Life magazine, and in a book.

The one well-known person I would love to see preserved is
Jack Kevorkian, but that's not very likely, and my motive is
mainly ironic.

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