Cryonics v. Cryogenics
Usually when people talk about cryogenics, they actually mean cryonics. Cryogenics is simply the study of how different materials behave at low temperatures. Go look up cryogenics if you're interested in how rocks act when they get really cold.
Cryonics is the field of study containing the plot behind all of the crazy sci-fi movies and books. The nature of cryonics is freezing, and therefore preserving, people who have problems that cannot be cured by medicine today. The idea of cryopreservation is to stop damage to cells by bringing them down to such a low temperature that the hazardous progress is halted. These same cells contain information about long term memory and identity. Since patients are being preserved, the hope is that eventually, years down the line, our technology will be advanced to the point that resurrection is possible.
Are Cryonics Legal?
The hope is that one day, people who are cryopreserved can be revived. If this is true, then it opens up a lot of legal barriers. Therefore, all patients who are currently being preserved must be determined as legally dead first.
Contrary to popular belief, or what you might see in Hollywood flicks, no living patient has ever been cooled to the boiling point of liquid nitrogen. That would be illegal, and is considered assisted suicide. Cryonics patients are not considered alive, or in any sort of "in-between" state.
This of course creates a lot of problems for researching looking to make advancements in this field. Ideally, the person would still be alive, but close to death, before they were prepared for this period of "hibernation". This of course brings up the other primary problem with cryonics, the inability to verify results, as stated by ALCOR, a Life Extension Foundation-
When a conventional surgical procedure is successful, usually the patient recovers and is cured. If the same surgical procedure is unsuccessful or a surgeon makes a serious error, the patient may die. These clear outcomes provide prompt feedback for the people involved. A physician may feel deeply satisfied if a life is saved, or may be deeply troubled (and may be sued for malpractice) if errors cause a death that should have been avoidable.
Clear feedback of this type does not exist in cryonics, because the outcome of our procedures will not be known definitively until decades or even a century from now. We have good reason to expect future technologies capable of repairing cellular damage in cryonics patients, but we feel equally certain that if a patient experiences very severe brain damage prior to cryopreservation, repairs may be delayed, may be incomplete, or may be impossible. The dividing line between these positive and negative outcomes cannot be established clearly at this time.
Let's Get Preservative!
Can I Afford To Be Preserved Through Cryonics?
Obviously with some of the most advanced cutting edge technology on the planet being used in the research for cryonics, you wouldn't expect it to be something cheap. And you would be right. The cost for a full body preservation through ALCOR is just shy of $28,000. The good news is, if you just want the neuro-preservation, you can get a discount. Unfortunately, that discount still comes up at around $19,000. And really, why do you need a whole body freezing? Centuries from now when you are brought back, odds are having the body of a robot will be the norm, and you don't want to look too out of place.
The other good news is, that $19,000 (or $28,000 if you want to keep your own lovely hair, as well as that birthmark on your arm) is all-inclusive. It will include transport of your oh-so cold body, the process of cryonics itself, as well as lab maintenance and record keeping while you're snoozing away. And when you think about that, it's actually a pretty good deal. After all, you can't put a price on health, right?
More About Cryonics
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