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In pursuit of life everlasting, some turn to God. Others turn to science. Medicine is aimed at improving and extending healthy lives but it can’t stop the ultimate frontier DEATH. But with evolving technology, we might have a way around it in future. Until then what to do? Here comes in rescue Cryonics.
Cryonics is the practice of preserving human bodies in extremely cold temperatures with the hope of reviving them sometime in the future. The idea is that, if someone has “died” from a disease that is incurable today, he or she can be “frozen” and then revived in the future when a cure has been discovered. A person preserved this way is said to be in cryonic suspension.
To understand the technology behind cryonics, think about the news stories you’ve heard of people who have fallen into an icy lake and have been submerged for up to an hour in the frigid water before being rescued. The ones who survived did so because the icy water put their body into a sort of suspended animation, slowing down their metabolism and brain function to the point where they needed almost no oxygen.
If you’ve ever hoped to be cryogenically frozen, you might come across a legal hurdle: while human cryonics is legal in several countries, you have to be dead before going into the cryonics tank. Otherwise, freezing someone alive is tantamount to killing. People who undergo this procedure must first be pronounced legally dead — that is, their heart must have stopped beating.
But if they’re dead, how can they ever be revived? According to scientists who perform cryonics, “legally dead” is not the same as “totally dead.” Total death, they say, is the point at which all brain function ceases. Legal death occurs when the heart has stopped beating, but some cellular brain function remains. Cryonics preserves the little cell function that remains so that, theoretically, the person can be resuscitated in the future.
Until the day comes that humanity masters the art of resurrection, so scientists can reanimate them and cure their ailments or upload their consciousness into the cloud, whichever comes first. Who simply hope to be cryopreserved go throw cryonic suspension process after pronounced legally dead.
The first body to be frozen with the hope of future revival was James Bedford’s, a few hours after his cancer-caused death in 1967. His body was frozen by Robert Nelson, a former TV repairman with no scientific background before the body was turned over to Bedford’s relatives. Bedford’s corpse is the only one frozen before 1974 still preserved today. In 1976, Ettinger founded the Cryonics Institute; his corpse was cryopreserved in 2011. Nelson was sued in 1981 for allowing nine bodies to thaw and decompose in the 1970s; in his defence, he claimed that the Cryonics Society of California had run out of money.
As of now, four facilities exist in the world to retain cryopreserved bodies: three in the U.S. and one in Russia.
Russian cryonics company KrioRus plans to buy a bunker in Switzerland and convert it to a cryopreservation lab. People with one foot in the grave could fly in from around the world and be placed in a cryopreservation tank.
KrioRus is the first Eurasian company to preserve people and pets, hosting 50 human bodies or heads and 20 animals in tanks in Moscow and St. Petersburg. They have so far only worked with people who have been declared legally dead. Freezing your body is $36,000 and ahead will set you back $12,000.
There’s no guarantee that the pursuit of pre-mortem freezing will go anywhere, let alone conquer mortality. Perhaps the field of cryonics is just trading one eternal, icy embrace for another.