X-Message-Number: 624
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 92 15:26:09 PST
From: ghsvax! (Hal Finney)
Subject: Cryonics - Visit to Alcor

My wife and I visited Alcor last weekend when we drove down to L.A.
I thought people here might be interested in a report on the visit:

I found the visit to Alcor to be helpful and informative.  Carlos
Mondragon, president of Alcor, showed my wife and me around, and Steve
Harris showed up later to visit for a while.  I have subscribed to
Cryonics magazine for several years, so I knew that their facilities
were small and that the organization is frequently short on cash,
but in general I thought they had done quite well with what they had.
They seemed to have a lot of equipment, older models, but still
professional quality.  They have a regular operating table with a
heart-lung machine; it looked like they could probably do surgeries
there if they wanted to.  They can do real-time X-rays and blood gas
measurements.  It was clear that they care very much about the quality
of what they do and that they are very sincerely trying to do the best
suspensions possible.

We also got to see the containment vessels where the people are
kept.  I was impressed by the sheer size of the massive storage
containers.  The containers are all alarmed in case of a loss of
coolant; a technician is on-site at all times, and Carlos and other
officers are automatically notified via an auto-dialing system and
beepers if there is a problem.

One thing I found interesting is that they have reduced the boil-off
rate to where the containers only have to be "topped up" with liquid
nitrogen every few days.  It was clear that the actual maintenance of
the suspendees takes very little time and effort.  They could easily
handle many times the 20 patients (counting neuropatients) they have
in suspension, with just a little more room needed.

Alcor is having some problems now, with the loss of two key people,
but Carlos was very forthright about that and it was clear that he had
plans to address the problems, and ideas about how to keep from
becoming so dependent on one or two people again.  I was very pleased
to see that Carlos was thinking ahead like that.  Sometimes from
reading the magazine I'd gotten the impression that the organization
tended to lurch from crisis to crisis.

They also cleared up two specific points which had been holding me
back from signing up: first, I had heard that the paperwork load was
horrendous; and second, I was concerned that the price of suspension
might keep going up and up and up and that if I couldn't afford it I
would end up losing all my investment.

Carlos explained that the paperwork has gotten much simpler than it
once was.  Now, you fill out a questionairre, then you basically have
just three required forms.  There are other forms that are optional which
cover some other details, like informing your doctor of your wishes,
but that can be done later.

Carlos also talked about the money situation.  He has some ideas which
will be published soon in Cryonics which I won't try to go into here,
to provide some protection for members against future price increases.
He also pointed out that, if we did sign up and then change our minds,
that my life insurance investment would basically belong to me; I'd
only be out the ~$288 per year (I forget the exact number, but it was
less than I spend now to belong to a gym) for the dues.  Carlos also
emphasized that the patient care fund was extremely solvent, and that
their funding problems have to do solely with supporing the office staff
and the day-to-day running of the organization.  I'm very happy that
they have the self-control to avoid dipping into the patient care
fund, as that must present a constant temptation to them.

In general, I felt that this visit addressed the main concerns that my
wife and I had about signing up.  I need to talk to her about it a
little more, but I think we will probably go ahead with it.  One
unexpected bonus is that it looks like we can sign up our kids for
relatively little extra; their Alcor dues are 25% normal once we sign
up, and life insurance rates should be cheap for them.

(I feel a little bad that all you young single people are subsidizing
these lower rates for me, but after all, statistically speaking, Alcor
should not have to suspend my kids for a long time, if ever.  In my
personal opinion, anyone born today has a better than 50-50 chance of
living effectively forever, with expected lifespan increasing faster
than their age.)

Hal Finney

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