Cryonics in the media

The Detroit News features a story about cryonics that is a good illustration of the upward battle that cryonics faces in the media. First and foremost, this story reinforces the idea that cryonics concerns the practice of freezing dead people:

Preparation of the body is a five-day procedure. It begins with keeping the body as cool as possible before arriving at the facility, to slow decomposition. Upon arrival, the body is put in a sleeping bag, strapped to a backboard and put in a cooling box.

There is no mention of the practice of replacing the blood with a so called cryoprotective agent to inhibit ice formation in the text, but the practice is explained in a sidebar.

Then the inevitable “expert” (John K. Critser, president of the Society for Cryobiology) makes the predictable error of  offering his opinion on the feasibility of cryonics based on our current ability to achieve real suspended animation.  If a scientist cannot conceptually distinguish between a technology that is meant to halt decomposition to allow resuscitation efforts in the future and a technology that is able to cool down a complex organism and recover it with contemporary technology, cryonics has a serious “marketing” problem.

There has been much debate about how to persuade more people to consider cryonics. Renewed efforts should be made to end  misunderstanding about the following three basic points about cryonics:

1. Cryonics is not the freezing of dead people, but involves the attempt to halt decomposition of people that have been given up by contemporary medicine through the use of low temperatures. Legal death is not biological death.

2. The objective of cryonics is to protect critically ill patients against ice formation at cryogenic temperatures by replacing the blood with a cryoprotective agent. Vitrification solutions attempt to inhibit ice formation altogether.

3. Cryonics is not suspended animation and should not be evaluated as such. Expecting people to destroy their brains because suspended animation is not feasible yet is neither prudent nor caring. Our current burial and cremation practices reflect a simplistic view of death and a desire for instant gratification and closure.