X-Message-Number: 7705
From:  (Thomas Donaldson)
Subject: Re: Visser failure
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 1997 23:43:13 -0800 (PST)

Hi again!

Visser has certainly not behaved as a scientist should, in any respect. 

I will note, also, that she is presently a PhD STUDENT, ie. in the course
of learning how to do science, not an established scientist on her own.

And yes, she may well have violated moral norms, although so far I haven't
seen an explicit statement that she (for instance) did not have consent from
her subjects. I'd like a reference to that. So far the kinds of things I've
read about her come from Authorities who are upset that she didn't follow
established procedures, not that she was acting immorally. Maybe Mike has
a newspaper article or something which describes her conduct toward her
subjects, and I just haven't read it. 

As for whether what she's been doing in cryobiology is SCIENCE, from what
I saw at the Alcor Festival I certainly agree with Mike. Basically she
was messing around: with rat hearts, with her cryoprotectant, and so
on and on. Apparently on Friday it was far worse, with no set procedure
at all.

HOWEVER I would not demand that something be science, in the sense of
being carefully done, with everything specified so as to make replication
easy, and so on, for it to be worth attention. IF her experiments had
worked, even just one of them, then she would not have been doing any
more science than before, but she would have done something to which
we should pay attention. 

But no, SHE DID NOT. Fundamentally I don't care how much her husband sent
negative messages about lots of us on Cryonet, nor what other things she's
been doing. The crucial point here is that the hearts, when we knew they 
were kept at LN temperatures for the required time, DID NOT REVIVE WHEN 
SHE TRIED TO REVIVE THEM. All else is irrelevancy.

And what if she did lie to her AIDS subjects? Yes, that would have made
me mistrust her more... and so if she were to try a public experiment,
I would be all the more rigorous in my requirement that the hearts
beat after verifiable immersion for 20 minutes in LN. If Mr. Mengele
had found what may be a successful cryoprotectant, it would not become
less successful because of his immorality. Sure, I'd want to see that
immorality dealt with, but not by refusing to attend to what he had done.
(Think seriously: now which country was it that really got rocketry 

As for whether Visser is worth attention NOW, I would say she is not.
If her methods can somehow be fixed, that is her job, not ours. We should
forget her and work on other methods such as vitrification, which now
still looks much better than its competition. And of course BioPreservation
might find better cryoprotectants. Just wipe her from our slate.

			Long long life,

				Thomas Donaldson

PS: I really mean what I said about consent. If someone on Cryonet 
can send me an article, or quote from one, which deals specifically with
how she treated her patients, I'd certainly like to receive it.

Incidentally, an incident happened in Australia about 1984 that reminds
me a little of the Visser business... though the participants were just
as mistaken, they may not have had Visser's other (possible) faults. One
day I opened my paper (THE AUSTRALIAN) and found an article about some
scientists up in Queensland who announced that they would soon demonstrate
successful freezing of kidneys. None of them had any previous contact
with cryobiology, their names simply weren't present anywhere.

Hmmm. It looked to me that they were very new to the field, and saw all
the problems as simple to solve. Why, in just a few months, we'll wrap
that problem up and give it to you with a ribbon round it ...

After which there was silence.

>From watching the experiments it looked to me that there were lots of 
ways someone could fool themselves or be mistaken about their results ---
not trying to fool others, just fooling themselves. Why, of course the
heart is is LN. We needn't use a thermocouple to verify that, we've
looked through all the fog and see it down there ... Visser apparently
convinced herself that there had been a little bit of beating in the
first heart she did.

It takes experience to learn the pitfalls in such experiments. No one
in South Africa had such experience, telling them what must be carefully
measured, what must be done so the results are replicated, etc etc. Sure,
a careful scholar would have read up on everything he could find which
had been done before. But too often that isn't done. Few in Australia
(at that time) had such experience, either. 

And when I first heard of Visser on the net, the first thing I thought
of was that newspaper article from THE AUSTRALIAN, in 1985. Oh dear, 
another one! was my first thought. Unfortunately, it looks like that's
just what's happened... though this time with all kinds of curlicues
and gargoyles to decorate the scenery. 

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