X-Message-Number: 5723
Date: Mon, 12 Feb 1996 11:41:16 -0500
Subject: bequests, "sick" society

Some comments on remarks by John de Rivaz, Nick Maclaren, & Garret Smyth
(#5719, 5720, 5721):

John notes that no cryonics organization will accept a bequest as primary
funding for cryonic suspension, because of the delays and uncertainties of
probate. In the case of Cryonics Institute, this may soon change a bit,
depending on action of the directors at the September annual meeting.

Very briefly, as our financial position continues to grow stronger, the
directors may (or may not) decide that it makes sense to accept a little more
carefully evaluated risk in order to generate more growth. In that case, in
carefully screened instances, we might decide to accept bequests at least as
part payment--especially if funding is well above the minimum. We already are
willling, in principle, to accept deferred title to real estate for funding,
even real estate in other countries, if there is triple coverage and if other
criteria are met. In general, we aim for as much flexibility as high
standards of prudence permit.

On the question of ethical issues in cryonics, and especially the "right" of
society to tell individuals how to spend their money, Mr. Maclaren's views
are so grotesque as to constitute a caricature of a communist. But we have
long understood that such views are not at all uncommon, and that attacks on
cryonics are likely to mount when our movement attains serious proportions.

Mr. Smyth is right, of course, in saying--as I have often said--that cryonics
will be at most only a tiny ripple on the tide of history, because
"immortality" or elimination of senescence will come with or without
cryonics, cryonics being crucial only for a relatively few people for one or
 two or a very few generations. But cryonics might possibly become relatively
popular long before the promise or threat of immortality permeates the public
consciousness, hence could become a target for demagogues or ideologues.

Fortunately, the political tides at the moment, and probably at least for the
intermediate term, seem to favor relative freedom and market-driven trends.
We are still heavily taxed, which means we allow government to spend much of
our money for us according to the wisdom of the bureaucrats after they get
theirs; but at least we are allowed to indulge our fancy with the money we
are permitted to keep. We can give it to our children or not, "waste" it or
not--even bequeath it to a dog or cat, or you can spend it all on a statue of
yourself. (We see bumper stickers--"Spending the kids' inheritance and loving
it.") In the U.S., if I remember correctly, inheritance taxes do not kick in
until the $600,000 level, and there are legal maneuvers that allow you to
avoid even these. 

I don't see much point in telling lawyers what they "ought" to do from an
ethical perspective. We have to play the hands we are dealt, even if they are
dealt from the bottom of the deck--although we can try to change the rules,
or use our own sleight-of-hand. "If you can't win fair, cheat a little."
(Just kidding; we are strict rule-followers.)  

Mr. Maclaren thinks the present "phobia" about death indicates a "sick
society." One wonders on what planet, or in what age, he has been living.
When and where have NOT most people preferred life to death, and struggled to
defer demise? From the most ancient shamans to present physicians and medical
researchers, the fight for better health and longer life has almost always,
almost everywhere, been the rule and not the exception. There has also always
been a certain amount of pro forma or lip service devotion to the idea of
going humbly and gracefully "when your time comes," but with the relatively
minor and temporary exception of martyrs and zealots this tenet of faith has
been honored mainly in the breach. "Everybody wants to go to Heaven, but
nobody is in a hurry to get there."

Mr.Maclaren, I think I can speak for many immortalists and cryonicists when I
say that we do not have any "phobia" about death whatsoever, and fear death
no more than you--maybe less. Many of us are accustomed to taking risks of
all kinds--physical, financial, political, social. We know that dead people
don't suffer--but they don't enjoy life much either, and that's the point. 

You spoke of a "sick society"--do you mean that label to go back to the
American Revolution? All we want is what the founding fathers wanted--life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. OURS is the traditional American way,
and the civilized way--not yours. 

Robert Ettinger
Immortalist Society
Cryonics Institute

Rate This Message: http://www.cryonet.org/cgi-bin/rate.cgi?msg=5723