Q: How do you know revival is even possible?
A: We believe that revival is a real possibility because:
(1) Many biological specimens have been cryopreserved, stored at liquid nitrogen temperature where all decay ceases, and revived; these include whole insects, vinegar eels, many types of human tissue including brain tissue, human embryos which have later grown into healthy children, and a few small mammalian organs. Increasingly more cells, organs and tissues are being reversibly cryopreserved.
(2) The repair capabilities of molecular biology and nanotechnology increasingly point to a future technology that can repair damage due to aging, disease and freezing.
Q: Has any mammal been cryopreserved and revived?
A: Not to cryogenic temperatures. Dogs and monkeys have had their blood replaced with protective solution and cooled to below 0ºC, with subsequent rewarming and revival. Nematode worms have been cryopreserved in liquid nitrogen (−196ºC), and subsequently revived. At the July 2005 Society for Cryobiology Conference, it was announced that a rabbit kidney had been completely vitrified to solid state at −135ºC, rewarmed and transplanted to a rabbit with complete viability. The prospect that this could be done to a mammalian brain is very good. Although a whole mammal has not yet been cryopreserved to cryogenic temperatures and revived, the progress of science is moving in that direction.
However, that is not the reason why people currently practice cryonics. Cryonics is practiced because of a belief that the damage caused by current cryopreservation can someday be repaired. Molecular repair technologies like nanotechnology give us hope that we can be revived from cryopreservation that uses current techniques by future technology that does not yet exist. If we are causing damage today, we believe there will be means to repair that damage in the future.
Q: What is "cryonic suspension"?
A: The cryonic cryopreservation state is sometimes described as "cryonic suspension", possibly because the patient is unchanging and therefore "suspended in time" — although this terminology is misleading and confusing. Cryopreservation is not "suspended animation" in the sense of being reversible by current technology. The person is more bouyant, but not really "suspended" in liquid nitrogen because they are more dense than liquid nitrogen and sink.
Q: Isn't cryonics just a wild science-fiction gamble?
A: We don't believe so. Especially in light of the beginning development of a new form of technology called nanotechnology — the manipulation of individual atoms or molecules, eventually to build or repair virtually any physical object, including human cells and biological tissue.
One of its projected possible applications is the repair of precisely the sort of damage to human tissue caused by freezing at liquid nitrogen temperatures — not to mention cellular and organic damage caused by disease and aging.
When will that happen? Robert A. Freitas, author of three-volume text Nanomedicine — selections from which are available via our Links page — has publicly stated, "I would not be surprised if the first cryonics revival was attempted by 2040-2050." Of course, no one can predict such dates, and we don't rely on any particular prediction.
Q: Are there scientific studies on feasibility or lack of feasibility?
A: Dr. Ralph Merkle, examining the plausibility of cryonics in his essay 'The Molecular Repair Of The Brain', observes, "Interestingly (and somewhat to the author's surprise) there are no published technical articles on cryonics that claim it won't work...A literature search on cryonics along with personal inquiries has not produced a single technical paper on the subject that claims that cryonics is not feasible. On the other hand, technical papers and analyses of cryonics that speak favorably of its eventual success have been published. It is unreasonable, given the extant literature, to conclude that cryonics is unlikely to work."
Notable technical papers which provides scientific evidence for the feasibility of cryonics are: ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES; Lemler,J; 1019:559-563 (2004) and REJUVENATION RESEARCH; Best,B; 11(2):493-503 (2008).
Q: Are there public statements by eminent scientists who recognize that cryonics has scientific merit?
A: Yes. See Scientists' Open Letter on Cryonics in which 60 eminent scientists affirm that "cryonics is a legitimate science-based endeavor". Note that cryonics is science-based, but cannot correctly be called current science. Cryonics is based on expectations of the repair capabilities of future science. Although the projection is less, possible human habitation of Mars is similarly a science-based concept based on projections of the capabilities of current science.
Q: But isn't freezing a deceased person pointless? Once you're dead, you're dead. And even if you could revive them, they'd just have the same fatal disease they had before.
A: If by "dead" you mean "clinically dead", without heartbeat or breathing, then "raising the dead" is done every day, thousands of times every year, in hospitals all over the world. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR — developed in the 1950's — quite commonly restores life to people who were once considered (wrongly) to be absolutely and irretrievably dead, throughout all of previous human history. Yet now such a technique is standard practice.
If we can restore life to people who have been dead for several minutes, and even hours in some drowning cases, why should we assume that doing the same after years is impossible, if we can prevent further deterioration during that time?
"Absolute" death may only be said to occur when the brain's essential information is destroyed — and brain preservation is precisely what cryopreservation aims to achieve.
As for having a fatal disease — as science progresses, fatal diseases become formerly fatal diseases. Polio or bubonic plague was fatal once; they — and hundreds of other diseases — are not fatal now. Many qualified people think that cures for currently fatal diseases — including old age — are only a matter of time.
Q: Do you really think it will become possible to cure every disease, even reverse the effects of aging, and repair all freezing damage as well ?
A: It isn't necessary to wait till "every" disease imaginable is cured, all at one stroke. What you really need to do to make cryonics itself work is to cure or prevent freezing damage. And as previously indicated, there is reason to think nanotechnology will be capable of cure or repair, while reduction of damage has already been achieved, and our research is ongoing.
As improved cryopreservation methods, or improved methods of "vitrification" are developed, there will be less burden on future technology, hence hopefully earlier revival. Vitrification means formation of a glasslike solid as temperature falls. This stops the formation of ice crystals that may damage tissues, eliminating freezing damage altogether. The Cryonics Institute vitrified its first human patient in the Summer of 2005 (see The Cryonics Institute's 69th Patient).
Q: But aren't you really talking about raising the dead!
A: No. Cryonics is a matter of rational procedure, not religious miracle. Cryonics can't restore life to people whose brains have been long been physically destroyed — a Lincoln, or a Julius Caesar, or those cremated. Cryonics simply — but reasonably — claims that if you cryopreserve a person in a way that limits damage, then that person's brain structure may be preserved sufficiently to make it at least possible the eventual recovery of life and health.
And let's not be confused by language. "Dead" people — apparently dead people, no heartbeat or respiration — are revived every year, in hospitals all over the world, by the thousands. The dictionary definition of "death" is permanent cessation of vital functions. Therefore, if someone is recovered, that means the person wasn't "really" dead in the first place, and we think that's the best way to look at it.
Q: Can you guarantee success?
A: Sadly, we can't. No one can guarantee success, because no one can guarantee the future. No one can predict scientific progress with certainty, but we believe a strong case can be made for the probable success of cryonics. But that doesn't mean that social disruptions aren't possible. Nuclear war, economic collapse, political strife, terrorism, are all possible, and they could end the lives of cryopreserved patients just as easily as they can end the lives of those outside it.
Q: Can you guarantee the safety of patients?
A: The oldest patient currently still being held in cryopreservation is a Dr. James Bedford, who was cryopreserved in 1967. He has survived the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Watergate, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 9/11 attacks — which is more than many of his contemporaries can say. The world is (relatively) stable at the moment, global world war doesn't seem likely, and the economy is still growing.
Again, we can't guarantee the future. But we can and do guarantee this: that at CI we will give our very best efforts to see our member patients are restored to life and good health. Because the life of every director and officer and member of CI depends on those efforts too.
Q: What about the cost? I heard cryonics is supposed to be incredibly expensive.
A: Good news: you heard wrong! With CI, the minimum fee for cryopreservation at CI (which includes vitrification perfusion and long term storage) is $28,000 — a one-time fee, due at time of death. And though it can be paid in cash, usually a member has a life insurance policy made that pays the amount to CI upon death. To have all this and also to have a cryonics team wait by the bedside ("Standby") to perform rapid cooling and cardiopulmonary support upon pronouncement of death can sometimes be paid for by a larger life insurance policy. But many CI Members simply take the $28,000 option, without Standby, which can cost around $30 a month for someone starting his insurance when middle aged and in good health.
Insurance agents with knowledge of life insurance policies for cryonics purposes can be found under the Insurance Agents section of a page on this website. In some places in the U.S. a middle-aged man in good health can get a $100,000 "permanent life insurance policy" for about $600 a year. Which means that, far from being expensive, cryonics membership, standby from a cryonics organization, and cryopreservation can cost you no more than fifty dollars a month, if that — less than many usual activities such as eating out or holidays. Advice from an insurance professional is recommended before selecting a policy. Because of possible future price increases — or additional future services requiring additional payments — it is prudent to buy more insurance than the absolute minimum required, at least $200,000.
If you need to save money, you can make your arrangements without professional standby, and insure for $50,000, costing about $360/year or $30/month. The funeral service industry is competant to perform cryonic preparations, and can sometimes do standby (without the equipment of cryonics professionals). This can reduce the quality of the cryopreservation.
A person who wishes to become a Lifetime CI Member can make a single membership payment of $1,250 and doesn't have to pay any annual dues at all after that.
If a new member would rather pay a smaller amount up front, in exchange for funding a slightly higher cryopreservation fee later on ($35,000), he or she can join with a $75 initiation fee, and pay annual dues of only $120, which are also payable in quarterly installments of $35. (And such a dues-paying member can upgrade to Lifetime Membership at any time, saving $7,000 and any dues ever again.) True, members at a distance may have to pay local funeral director fees and transportation costs to Michigan to be cryopreserved, but these payments are not made to CI.
Take a look at our Becoming A Member FAQ and the membership application forms to find out more. And if you've got any questions, or want to talk about making special arrangements? Give us a call at (586) 791-5961 or drop us an email at CIHQ@aol.com. We're more than happy to help.
Q: How much do the other organizations charge?
A: Prices vary greatly. CI has by far the lowest costs of any cryonics organization. Our procedures are very cost-conscious but they are based on experiment and professional evaluation, and in our judgment likely to give our patients the best overall chance of recovery.
We think a prospective member should shop around, and our web site has links to all the other providers' sites, so see for yourself. Prices with other organizations can be as much as $200,000 or more for whole body cryopreservation and $80,000 for the "neuro" (head-only) option, which CI doesn't offer.
Take a look at our article, Comparing Prices and Policies, to find out more.
Q: What if I can't get life insurance?
A: If you have — or expect to have — sufficient assets in any form, we may be able to work something out. Our members include attorneys and estate planners who are no strangers to creative financing.
Q: What's the "neuro" option? And why don't you offer it?
A: "Neuro" is short for neurocryopreservation, and it refers to the practice of removing and cryopreserving only the head of a person declared legally dead. The theory is that only the information contained in the brain is of any importance, and that a body to contain the revived brain could be cloned or regenerated at some point in the future.
Neurocryopreservation requires less space and maintenance, and so saves money. But our price for whole-body is already lower than that of others for 'neuro', so cost is less important. We do not offer the neuro option at present, largely because we are concerned about neuro's negative effect on public relations and, especially, on the families of patients.
Journalists and horror novelists invariably have a field day with "frozen severed heads", and focus not on the scientific or humanitarian sense of cryonics, but on making cryonics look grotesque or ridiculous. Why ask for such trouble — trouble that can put a patient at risk?