Maxwell Blanchard’s A brief introduction to Cryonics

Professor Vesna briefly mentioned a topic in lecture this past week that has been a controversial, as well as interesting(the two tend to be inextricably bound to each other) topic for several year.  The topic is cryonics.  Wikipedia defines cryonics as the low-temperature preservation of animals and humans that can longer be sustained by contemporary medicine until further advances are made in the medical field. Cryonics has been the subject in newspapers, medical journals, and has also served as a plot line for several popular movies such as Vanilla Sky or even Austin Powers.
Currently it is illegal to perform procedures in which medical professionals prepare the body to be preserved in this way until pronounced legally dead.  This is different from what is defined as the information-theoretic definition of death, wherein it is impossible to resuscitate the the brain to its normal status. Since the brain is deprived of oxygen after the heart stops beating, ischemic injury to the brain occurs. This means that the deprivation of oxygen has caused irreversible damage to functional brain tissue.  However, should a solution to the problem be found in later years, to which i am referring the brain damage, it may become quite possible to cryonically preserve a human being(and resuscitate).  Certain animals such as wood frogs and water bears can survive frozen for almost several months, but up to a certain point damage is inevitable and true resuscitation to the original state becomes impossible.


There are actually many physicians and organizations involved in the research of cryonics, such as the Cryonics Institute(real original right?). I found this somewhat ironic since it is hardly ever addressed or discussed as a future possibility.  It is often portrayed in science fiction movies that are utterly ridiculous. Actually, the Cryonics Institute currently offers cryonics services for those pronounced legally dead, in hopes that in the near future resuscitation might be possible.  The person is held in a state of “cryostasis” in which they are basically stored in liquid nitrogen. You can even pay extra to have specialists by your bedside while the operation is being performed. As i said before, cryonics is a rather small at the moment. However over a hundred people have been “cryonically preserved” since 1967 and more than one thousand people have made financial and legal arrangements with a cryonics organization.  The average price is around 28,000 dollars, and is available through life insurance.
Obviously, as I said there are several controversial issues revolving around this topic. Many of them may seem somewhat similar to those associated with stem cell research and the age old “playing god” question.  Many doctors and researchers vehemently believe it will never be a possibility and therefore condemn organizations such as the Cryonics Institute for even offering the possibility.  Nonetheless, leaps and bounds have been made in the medical field that many never thought possible and cryonics may indeed one day be a viable opportunity. If you’re interested in learning more http://www.merkle.com/cryo/ is quite in depth.

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