Good Cryonics is Local

The enemies of a good cryonics case are time and temperature. Deployment of a standby team that can start rapid cooling upon circulatory arrest should take care of the temperature challenge. The time element is more challenging. Even if a patient is stabilized rapidly after pronouncement of legal death, logistical and legal challenges can interfere with timely transport to Alcor for subsequent procedures. For example, if a patient is rapidly cooled down in North Dakota but logistical challenges and flight schedules prevent arrival of the patient at Alcor until several days later, the patient will still be subjected to progressive deterioration of the fine structure of the brain, breakdown of the blood brain barrier, swelling, and a number of processes that prevent smooth cryoprotection of the brain, or even necessitate a “straight freeze” (cryopreservation without a cryoprotectant). How should Alcor deal with the challenge of having only one physical location in Arizona but being responsible for members all over the world?

The most obvious solution is for a terminal member to move to Alcor. In almost all cases this is the preferred solution because this prevents several potential logistical, legal, and technical challenges. The advantages of moving to Alcor are so great for both the cryonics organization and the patient that Alcor offers up to $10,000 in relocation assistance. To further incentivize such a choice, Alcor could consider further increasing the amount of relocation assistance and/or actively assist older and sick members to consider relocating.

Another solution is to bring all major Alcor procedures to the location of the patient. This is easier said than done. Whereas a patient relocation does not require major expenditures and logistical decisions on the part of Alcor, bringing cryoprotection to the patient is a non-trivial task because it entails performing Alcor’s operating room procedures at a remote location. In practice, this can be done, and Alcor has cautiously authorized “field cryoprotection” for overseas and selected US cases. In principle field cryoprotection is possible for both neuro-patients and whole body patients but true whole body field cryoprotection would require the creation of an adequately equipped vehicle or satellite facility, not to speak of medical expertise. Recognition of the fact that many Alcor members do not relocate when terminally ill, and potential cost savings, have prompted some Alcor officials to advocate expanding field cryoprotection to more members.

Since it is obviously easier to bring a patient to a hospital than a hospital to a patient, more effort will need to be spent in educating members of the advantages of timely relocation to the Scottsdale area.

There might be one route to bringing the hospital to the patient and that is to encourage the creation of several of “cryonics hubs” in areas with large numbers of Alcor members. Support and recognition from Alcor for such initiatives is necessary but a decentralized approach could be effective here. Local members can start with creating a cryonics infrastructure to assist professional standby teams. Such efforts can include maintaining a list of pertinent local regulations, cooperating funeral homes, local volunteers and medical professionals, and flight schedules. A more ambitious step would be to equip certain areas with a local rescue vehicle, as was done in the past in Southern California. A more ambitious step would be to equip such a vehicle for field cryoprotection or even set up such facilities in a cooperating funeral home or building. This is a formidable task that would require many hours of work and considerable expenses but it would produce a more robust response infrastructure for Alcor to utilize. It could also make some areas less vulnerable to episodes of deteriorating response capabilities at Alcor. Last but not least, bringing people together to engage in such a project will also tighten the social fabric and local visibility of cryonics.

Originally published as a column in Cryonics magazine, November – December, 2018