Cryopreservation With Dignity
It is evident that controlling your time of death can greatly improve the conditions and outcomes of a cryonics procedure. The biggest advantage is that it categorically eliminates the possibility of an unattended death which can produce extensive periods of ischemia, the risk of a destructive autopsy, culminating in a “straight freeze” (cryopreservation without cryoprotection). At the very least, it mostly eliminates the prolonged adverse dying phase often associated with terminally ill patients.
These reasons, and a commitment to self-determination, cause many cryonics advocates to support the “right to die” and (state) legislation to make this option legally available to terminally ill persons. A small subset of cryonics advocates, however, have felt uncomfortable with the support for a sociopolitical movement aimed at securing the “right to die” because they understand that the majority of people seeking this right suffer from medical conditions that can be treated by more advanced medical procedures in the future and would be better served by a life-saving procedure such as cryopreservation instead.
Not withstanding these finer ethical points, utilizing medical aid in dying to secure a more timely and well-managed cryopreservation is a sensible pragmatic choice for terminally ill people with cryonics arrangements. But it should be emphasized that in such scenarios the aim is not to terminate life but to induce metabolic arrest for more advanced medical treatment in the future. This stands in stark contrast to the reasons why most people currently take advantage of such laws. As an evidence-based life-saving procedure, cryonics would benefit from distinct legal protections that provide people the option to choose cryonics as an elective medical procedure.
We need a different ethical and legal framework to prevent that cryonics continues to be practiced as a chaotic form of emergency medicine. Philosophers Francesca Minerva & Anders Sandberg have made the case for “cryothanasia” (a term coined in 2015 by Ole Martin Moen) and argue that, as a procedure aimed at saving lives, many of the objections to euthanasia would not apply to cryothanasia.
There is a tendency among some cryonics advocates to overestimate the beneficial effects of controlling the timing of their cryopreservation. Unless choosing the time of your death is followed by rapid standby, stabilization, and field cryoprotection, minimizing distance and transport time to the cryonics facility might still provide a better outcome for most cryonics members.
Cryonics organizations and their members should exercise restraint in political advocacy for right to die laws and focus on creating a favorable legal climate to practice cryonics as an experimental medical procedure instead. There are many people fighting for the right to die, but there are not many people fighting for the right to life extension, which would entail the right to be cryopreserved through professionally-managed hospital-based procedure.