X-Message-Number: 279
Date: 18 Feb 91 02:10:25 EST
From: Steve Bridge <>
To: KEVIN <>
Subject: Cheap Freeze Evaluation
Message-Id: <"910218071025 72320.1642 EHI22-1"@CompuServe.COM>

TO: Kevin

                Detailed Commentary on Cheap Freeze Approach 
                    By Steve Bridge, Midwest Coordinator
                      Alcor Life Extension Foundation

     In October, 1990, Richard Schroeppel proposed a "home storage" option 
for cryonics, which he believed would allow families to place their 
relatives into cryonic suspension and to maintain them in their garages or 
spare rooms at a fraction of the cost required by Alcor.  The objections to 
this proposal by Ralph Merkle, Brian Wowk, Thomas Donaldson, Keith Henson, 
and Steve Harris were accurate as far as they went; but, oddly enough, 
everyone appeared to accept his basic argument that home storage would in 
fact be CHEAPER.  

     After looking at this approach for quite a while, and discussing price 
estimates with Mike Darwin of Alcor, it seems obvious to me that Richard's 
entire plan is based on several false premises of cost.  Maintenance of 
individual patients in private homes would be much more expensive than at 
Alcor, and it seems likely that the upfront costs would be at least as 
expensive, even without perfusion.  I give cost estimates in the discussion 
following, plus some other comments I have on Richard's proposal.  I do not 
wish to argue this proposal indefinitely nor to put Richard through public 
embarrassment.  However, ideas like this surface every few years, and better 
answers are required.  Other newcomers to cryonics may learn quite a bit 
from studying this issue.

     To begin with the essential point:  In his first proposal, Richard 
assumes that: 

     "The can will cost a couple of thousand dollars; the suspension another 
thousand.  We offer to buy back the can for the first three months, so 
people feel they can change their minds.  It's cheap enough that almost 
anyone faced with a dying parent or the surprise death of a spouse or child 
can make the decision to freeze instantly.  They can pick up the phone, call 
Cheap Freeze, and charge the suspension on MasterCard.  The truck zips over 
to the victim's house or hospital room and starts the cooling; we come back 
in a day or so with the can, and arrange payment or credit.  The victim's 
body remains in the possession of the relatives, who are responsible for 
topping up the LN2 every couple of months.  We tell him where to buy LN2, or 
we make deliveries occasionally.  This costs maybe a hundred dollars a 

     OK, Richard, let's examine this.  (Figures to follow are from "The Cost 
of Cryonics" by Mike Darwin, in the August, 1990 issue of CRYONICS 
Magazine.)  Right now, Alcor must pay $13,000 for its two-patient (whole 
body) dewars and $18,000 for its four-patient dewars.  A specialized one-
patient tank will not cost simply half the cost of a two-patient unit.  
Certain basic costs are intrinsic in starting up production, and it seems 
very likely these units could not be produced for under $8,000.  Perhaps a 
production schedule of 100 tanks per year would drop that cost somewhat, but 
not to $2,000.  Besides, it is the FIRST people to do this at home that you 
are interested in.  If it doesn't become fairly easy to do for the first 
people, there will be no way to get the economies of scale later.  No one 
will be the first.  Perhaps you could devise a more cheaply made tank, but 
that would decrease safety and increase liquid nitrogen boil-off rates (more 
on that to come).  

     These tanks must be STAND-UP models, around 8' tall.  Lay-down models 
have terrible disadvantages.  Primarily, the horizontal units have to be 
sealed units, with a valve for boil-off, or the nitrogen pours out on the 
floor.  Also, having the nitrogen in contact with some kind of unsealed lid 
increases the boil-off.  "So," you say, "what's the problem?  Just seal it."  
Unfortunately, every known sort of dewar capable of storing liquid nitrogen 
develops vacuum failure within 20-25 years.  (A more cheaply-made tank would 
be expected to fail sooner.)  These storage tanks are made like a Thermos 
bottle, with a vacuum between the inner and outer stainless steel cylinders.  
The vacuum is what prevents heat transfer.  When the vacuum weakens or 
disappears altogether, the boil-off rate approximates that of an open pail 
of LN2, which is pretty useless.  You would have a difficult time getting 
nitrogen fast enough to keep the tank full.  So the patient must be removed 
from the tank and placed in another one -- within 30-40 minutes, or the 
patient's temperature starts to rise, and one thing we are VERY sure of 
through research is that temperature fluctuations, even where the subject 
stays frozen, are extremely damaging to tissue.  

     Removing the end of a sealed tank requires that 1) you allow the 
nitrogen to boil-off below the level of the neck-tube and 2) you use a 
welding torch to cut off the end of the tank.  Imagine how THAT temperature 
fluctuation is going to affect the patient.  In fact, Alcor is currently 
working on a plan to do exactly that with the one ancient lay-down tank we 
have, in order to transfer the patient to a regular standup model.  The 
preparations required to protect the patient are agonizing, and it will 
still be dangerous.

     So let us say you agree to the stand-up model.  A back-up is needed.  A 
cryonics organization can solve this by having a spare dewar always 
available for patient transfer, so the original dewar could be repaired.  
Having two dewars available puts the cost up to $16,000.  Sure, several 
families could go together on a back-up (after several nearby families have 
frozen relatives -- these things are not easy to transport great distances).  
Or the cryonics organization you propose could have extras available.  But 
either option increases the required costs and complications.  

     An 8" tall tank filled with LN2 weighs around a ton.  You want to keep 
this in a spare-bedroom?  Even the smaller weight of water beds can damage 
floors in some homes.  Besides, you need a way to get that patient out of 
the tank.  The only way Alcor has found to do this safely is to have the 
patient tied to a specialized tray in the tank, and use a winch to hoist the 
tray and patient out of the tank, move the tank out of the way (a three 
person job, even with good casters), move the other tank in, and slide the 
patient in.  For this you need a ceiling space of about 20-25 feet, or a 
skylight with a framework on top.  How many people's garages even have an 8' 
high door?  How much more would putting in a skylight, winch, and frame add 
to the cost of the suspension?  And to be used only once every couple of 
decades? (although it would also make the tank filling easier).   Even 
having enough space to remove the lid and fill the tank requires at least 
four feet above the height of the dewar.  A 12' ceiling in a garage will 
require a lot of remodeling.

     Bob Ettinger at Cryonics Institute in Michigan has developed semi-
vacuum units of reinforced foam; but even these are about 12 feet long and 8 
feet wide.  And the technology is not currently readily available like the 
vacuum dewars are.

     It gets even more complicated.  Liquid nitrogen is dangerous stuff.  
Several people a year die or are severely injured from mishandling of it.  
If it is kept in a poorly ventilated room, in some weather conditions it can 
displace the oxygen, causing people to asphyxiate.  This is especially true 
in case of a spill in such a room or vehicle.  LN2 in a sealed container 
will build up pressure and explode.  A University of Alabama chemistry 
student was blinded last year fooling around with LN2 in a capped soft drink 
bottle.  Are you going to have children around the garage?  Of course, 
spilled LN2 can kill or injure though direct freezing injury.  And it is 
possible to just fall into the tank while examining it or filling it.  If 
many untrained people were handling liquid nitrogen, a number of them will 
get killed or maimed, creating monstrous public relations and liability 
problems for your group.

     This is why it is illegal to deliver LN2 and many other sealed gases to 
private homes in California.  I don't know about other states, but a few 
colorful accidents like this would give regulators good reason to shut off 
delivery there, too.  The individuals would probably have to buy their own 
delivery tank (another few thousand dollars) and pick up their own LN2, 
which is probably illegal in many states, too.

     Even if a way could be found to convince the government to allow this, 
and even if a nitrogen supplier could be persuaded to deliver such small 
amounts to individuals, the cost of LN2 alone would be much more than the 
$100.00 per year that Richard suggests.  Even Alcor's LN2 cost for a whole 
body patient in a two-person unit right now is $821 per year.  Alcor buys 
enough LN2 that they only have to pay 29 cents a liter.  An individual would 
have to pay at least $1.50 per liter -- FIVE TIMES GREATER.  That gives us a 
nitrogen cost of $4,100 per year, and even that assumes the best possible 
dewars.  That does not include the delivery charges, the cost of the filling 
apparatus itself, the alarms on the tanks (which are an ongoing expense, 
since you need a telephone service to respond to the alarm), or liability 
insurance to protect against accidents to visitors (if an insurance company 
could even be found which WOULD write such insurance.  More likely they 
would refuse you ANY fire or liability insurance on your home at all).

     Let's also not forget that the initial amount of liquid nitrogen 
necessary to lower a single whole body down to -320 F and to fill the tank 
the first time is at least 400 liters (Alcor requires 850 liters for 
cooldown of one patient in the two patient tank, so I'm not absolutely sure 
how the numbers translate) = $600.00.

     Now let's move to the dry ice costs.  You need a large insulated box 
for the patient.  Alcor places the patient in silicone fluid and adds the 
dry ice to that.  This is very efficient and allows for cooldown to -110 C 
in less than one day.  Let's assume that your home freezers won't use the 
silicone, which is fairly expensive, so they might get away with a modified 
casket liner.  (Your suggestion for a wooden box filled with alcohol would 
be immediately nixed by the local fire department.  Talk about an expensive 
cremation, not to mention burning down the house!  That hazard is why Alcor 
hasn't used an alcohol bath for many years.)  Say $500.00 cost for the box 
construction, an expense which could be shared among many users.  Let's call 
it a $100.00 charge for rental and delivery.  Don't forget, your company 
will need several of these.  

     Without silicone or other heat transfer medium, the cooling will go 
more slowly, probably at least three days.  In practicality, many or most 
patients will probably be on dry ice for more than a week, as the family 
makes the other necessary arrangements and decides whether they want to 
pursue this situation further.  Alcor estimates costs of $147.00 for enough 
dry ice for cooldown in silicone.  This does not work out to $147 per day 
for subsequent days, since the dry ice usage will go down after the 
patient's temperature has been reduced all of the way.  But let us estimate 
probably $300 for dry ice for the first three days (in the less efficient 
cooling system) and $25 a day after that: $400.00 for the first week.

     Now, what is going to be the charge from your company for the labor and 
advice of your people?  It cannot be all volunteer.  Someone has to be full 
time to coordinate, advertise, answer phones.  Oh, yes, you have phone 
expenses, beeper expenses, building rental or ownership to store all of 
those boxes, tanks, trays, and other equipment you will have to store to 
sell people.  How about postage, copying, FAX, printing, maintenance 
expenses, incorporation fees, legal expenses (no, you can't do a quickie 
incorporation on this kind of business.  You will have unique liabilities 
that several attorneys are going to scratch their heads over, even if you do 
manage to avoid having a contract with the family.).  How about your upfront 
engineering and inventory costs?  As a simple example, engineering for the 
patient trays alone took 6 different prototypes, and each one currently 
requires 2 full work days to make.  Economies of scale only occur after 
popularity, remember.  I estimate several hundred thousand in start-up 
costs, plus some unknown figure of over $100,000 per year in expenses.  
Isn't real life fun?

     You estimate that "we could start immediately and be on-line in six 
months."  Haven't started any businesses, have you, Richard?  One couldn't 
start such an organization in 6 months with the best lawyers in the world.  
There are too many new problems to be worked out.  If you DO try to avoid 
the attorneys in the set-up, better have a few million in the bank for 
PERSONAL liability claims, just in case a judge later decides that you are 
not properly incorporated.

     Up-front expenses for one patient:

          Patient dewar        $ 8,000
          Backup dewar share     2,000
          Building remodel       5,000
          Sleeping bag, gloves,
           ice, other misc. 
           expenses                500
          Dry ice (1 week)         400
          Dry ice box share        100
          1st cool and fill        600
          Alarms, fill app.        300
          LN2 storage tank       2,000
          Cryo company charge      ???

     Subtotal up-front         $18,900 +

     On-going annual charges:

          Liquid nitrogen      $ 4,100
          Alarm charges            200

     Subtotal annual           $ 4,300

     TOTAL FIRST YEAR          $23,200 +

     At this rate, it only takes *** 18 YEARS *** to spend $100,000.  I have 
a $100,000 insurance policy for which I pay $60.00 per month.  I can stop 
payments on it after 10 years and still have $100,000 in permanent 
insurance.  Now, who is saving money?

     That covers the financial aspect; but I want to make a few other 
comments, too.  What Steve Harris said about the illegality of keeping human 
remains at home is crucial to understand.  It has taken hundreds of 
thousands of dollars in legal expenses to get ALCOR the legal (and still 
uncertain) right to maintain these frozen patients.  This victory, should it 
become complete, will not automatically be extended to just anyone with a 
large garage.

     Then there is the problem of long-term care.  Cryonics is all about 
continuity over a long period of time.  Families are no longer continuous.  
My four cousins, all raised near Indianapolis, are now in Chicago, Houston, 
Wyoming, and Indianapolis.  And this family is emotionally very CLOSE.  50% 
or more of American families with children include at least one divorced 
parent.  Extending this to grandchildren is very speculative.  It is much 
more likely that a solid organization will survive than a family.

     What happens when a family wants to go on vacation or has to spend time 
out of town with another dying relative?  It is not so easy to find 
dependable neighbors and friends to check on Gramps.  One New York 
cryonicist had a professional cryogenics crew checking on his wife's dewar 
while he was out of town.  They damaged the tank, lost vacuum, and 
eventually the wife thawed out.  

     Another consideration: who is going to pick up the patient from the 
hospital or nursing home?  Who is going to file the death certificate?   Who 
is going to remove the patient's clothes, clean him up, wrap him in the 
sleeping bag (or whatever); and after the patient has gotten down to dry ice 
temperature, who will put him in the tank, fill the tank, and train people 
to care for the tank and patient?  Usually these various tasks are done by 
the mortician and the cryonics company.  Everything that will still be done 
by a mortician or cryonics organization will result in additional costs that 
must be paid for by somebody.  Everything that the family does will be a new 
experience that someone will have to help them with.  Could you do any of 
these things without special training?

     The question of handling the remains is especially troubling.  A 
century ago, many American families, especially in rural areas, still cared 
for their own dead.  They sat with the family member while he died, washed 
and clothed the body, organized the wake, built the casket, and dug the 
grave.  For most people today, death is a sterile event.  Patients die in 
hospitals and nursing homes, whereupon death specialists take over.  EMT's, 
nurses, orderlies, morticians, and cryonics technicians do all of the 
touching, cleaning, and clothing.  Grandpa doesn't look too good after 
cancer, pneumonia, heart disease, kidney failure, and liver failure.  He 
won't be much fun to handle, especially if the family member is at all 
dubious that this person is still savable.  How about a patient who is a 
bloody, mutilated mess after death in an auto accident?  Or one who is 
decapitated in an accident?  Think about the emotional load for the family 
if the patient was murdered?  (Not to mention the sensitive negotiations 
that must take place with the coroner to prevent further mutilation!)  What 
if Grandpa died of AIDS, or septicemia, or some even more nasty communicable 

     Do you see why this is both a question of public health and of mental 
health?  I can certainly understand why relatives would be dubious about 
taking on this kind of responsibility.  I have met only a handful of 
families even willing to HELP ALCOR with the suspensions.  Read about the 
Donovan family's work with Alcor to get their father suspended (reprint from 
CRYONICS magazine available from Alcor).  It took them 6 months of work and 
arrangements to pull off that suspension, with Alcor and me working with 
them all the way.  They participated in every step, including the surgery in 
California.  But do I think they would have been willing to freeze and store 
their father at home?  No.  And this was the most committed family I can 

     You seem to assume that an organization which merely sells the 
equipment and advice to the relatives would somehow be immune from the 
lawsuits which would trouble "a controversial organization with ... an 
identifiable lump of money."  Wrong.  If you sell the tank or give advice, 
you could be found liable for various types of failures.  And as many of my 
friends have discovered, you can be sued for anything.  It can cost 
thousands of dollars just to have your name removed from a lawsuit that you 
are not even rationally connected with.

     Several people have commented on the issue of viability, and I agree 
with them.  Cheap plans which do not result in saving the individual are a 
bigger waste of money than procedures which may later be shown to do too 
much.  The issue is saving the individual.

     In a later reply to Brian Wowk, Richard, you miss the point when you  
say that "Both cases that Brian Wowk refers to (Cryo Soc New York & Cryo Soc 
California) were organizational failures, where the whole thing failed at 
once."  This is simply not true.  The point is that both organizations 
depended entirely on payments from relatives to keep patients in suspension.  
After a few years, the relatives were no longer interested in making the 
payments.  CSNY slowly died from lack of payments and eventually lack of 
interest; it was not "corrupt."  Financially, the CSC situation was only 
slightly different.  While some fraud was possibly involved, the big problem 
was apathy on the part of the relatives.  NONE chose even to visit the 
organization to check on the suspensions.  Most slowly stopped making 
payments over the years. 

     Finally, Richard, you suggest that Alcor or other cryonics companies 
might be willing to help set up something like this or to sell or give 
technology developments to such an organization.  I think this is unlikely.  
Most or all of these organizations will see this as a proposition which is 
likely to fail.  It will likely fail for many individuals, bringing 
emotional stress (and lawsuits).  Some suspensions will likely fail in 
spectacular and grisly ways, killing or injuring family members or 
endangering the public health.  This will result in restrictive legislation 
which may harm all of the cryonics organizations.  And there is, of course, 
the pride in doing the job right, which I expect from my own organization, 
at least, and have a right to expect from the others.  

     Yes, cryonics does fly in the face of history in some ways; but that 
does not mean IGNORANCE of history.  The old saw about "those who do not 
read history are doomed to repeat it" is no less true for being old.  
Cryonics today is run the way it is precisely because of evolution.  Bad 
ideas did not survive.  There are no doubt many bad ideas still part of our 
systems which will eventually be dropped; with luck and careful attention on 
our part, they will not kill the organizations, too.  Attempting to revive 
bad ideas will only lead to more failures.  

     We do need new ideas, of course, and we hope that, as you learn more 
about what is already being done in cryonics, you will be one of the people 
providing new ideas.  Don't give up on having ideas; but don't forget to ask 
questions first.  And be prepared for pretty stiff arguments even when you 
are right.

Steve Bridge

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