Future Technologies / Health /

Once the stuff of sci-fi movies and futuristic novels, cryogenics is now a legitimate business offering the chance of a second life to people and even pets, the world over.

I happened across an article in one of the major British tabloids that claimed people were now signing up and parting with their cash to enrol on the program for cryogenics.

In fact, the Cryonics Institute in Oak Park, Michigan claimed that outside of the US, the greatest numbers of new subscribers – over 100 – were from the UK.

How does it work?

  • Immediately after a patient dies, a medical team stabilises circulation with a heart-lung resuscitator, keeping the brain supplied with blood and oxygen. 
  • The body is then packed in ice for transit and injected with a blood thinning agent. 
  • At the cryonics plant, water is removed from the body and replaced with a human version of antifreeze. 
  • The body is then put on a bed of dry ice until it cools to -130C. 
  • Up to 6 bodies are held in a tank of liquid nitrogen at 196C and stored upside down to protect the head in an event of a leak.

Storing 6 people in each tank helps keep the cost down although wealthier individuals can choose to have a container for themselves and their families if they prefer. Current costs are as little as £37,000 for someone to be kept in a tank of liquid nitrogen.

Most of the money paid is moved into stocks and bonds, which builds an endowment fund and compounds interest, which in turn pays for overheads such as taxes, utilities, salaries and liquid nitrogen.

In theory, a person would be brought back to life when the technology can facilitate the process although it remains hugely controversial as it has not been possible to revive a frozen mammal in this way yet.

Even supporters of the process admit it could be hundreds of years before technology is sufficiently advanced – if ever – and there is no guarantee that a patient could be brought back to life. To date, even individual organs like kidneys have never been frozen, thawed and restored to working order but that isn’t to say the technology won’t be available in the future. One hundred years ago, the idea of an organ transplant was still the stuff of fiction.

But let’s imagine for a moment that the process can be successfully initiated, there are a huge number of psychological and emotional concerns that would probably need to be addressed.

Waking up in a world, possibly centuries from now, would bring patients into an environment they would have no association with. Everyone they have ever known would be long gone and even the descendants of their relatives would have likely passed away.

If the current pace of change is anything to go by then life would be so different that we couldn’t possibly associate anything from today’s world with a world that had the technology to successfully initiate cryogenics.

As you emerged into this future world, more a curiosity than a comfortable member of society, would you ever be able to integrate into a culture that may have evolved beyond anything you recognise?  And if you did, what would that quality of life look like?


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Dori DeLuca

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