Xref: info.physics.utoronto.ca news.answers:30051 sci.answers:1635 sci.cryonics:1792
From: email@example.com (Timothy Freeman)
Subject: Cryonics FAQ 4: Controversy surrounding Cryonics
Date: 1 Oct 1994 07:02:18 GMT
Organization: Carnegie-Mellon University, School of Computer Science
Expires: 14 Nov 1994 07:01:42 GMT
Summary: This posting contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions
and their answers about cryonics, the practice of carefully preserving
very recently clinically and legally dead people in hopes that they can be
revived in the future. It should be read by anyone interested in posting
to sci.cryonics and by anyone who finds the prospect of certain death
Frequently Asked Question List
Section 4: Controversy surrounding Cryonics
Last Modified Mon May 31 12:49:08 1993
(You can fetch cryomsg "n" by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or
to email@example.com with the subject line "CRYOMSG n". There is
more about this in the answer to question 8-2. The index
to this FAQ list is cryomsg "0018.1". )
Copyright 1993 by Tim Freeman. See the end of Section 1 for
restrictions on redistribution.
4-1. Why do cryobiologists have such a low opinion of cryonics? How did this
start, and how does it continue?
Cryobiologists are scientists who study the effects of cold on
living systems such as insects, embryos, and organs. Those few who
specialize in the cryobiology of organs and larger animals do possess
knowledge relevant to the preservation phase of cryonics, although they
are seldom familiar with the future repair technologies cryonics depends
on. Unfortunately this is a recipe for misunderstanding.
Knowing full well all the damage inflicted by today's freezing
techniques, and being ignorant of the prospects for repairing it, most
cryobiologists believe cryonics cannot work. They view it as an
illegitimate pursuit that attracts unwarranted media attention, and that
tarnishes the image of their own profession. The resulting hostility
toward cryonics is often so great that even cryobiologists sympathetic
to cryonics cannot openly state their views without fear of ostracism.
4-2. Who made the statement about reviving a frozen person being similar to
reconstructing the cow from hamburger?
The cryobiologist Arthur Rowe is responsible for promoting this
misrepresentation. Specifically, he says:
"Believing cryonics could reanimate somebody who has been
frozen is like believing you can turn hamburger back into
The analogy is not valid. Some vertebrates can survive freezing, but
no vertebrates can survive grinding.
Here is what CRFT said on page A-40:
"This is absurd. Cryonics patients are frozen long before most of
their cells die or become structurally disorganized. The freezing
techniques used in cryonic suspension are based upon hundreds of
published studies in which scientists have shown that almost all
mammalian cells, including brain cells, can survive freezing and
As an interesting aside, according to Matthew P Wiener
(firstname.lastname@example.org), sponges can reassemble themselves
after being diced up into small pieces. I don't know if they could
survive grinding, and I don't know if each piece occupies the same
location after dicing as before.
4-3. What was the Dora Kent case?
Dora Kent is the mother of Saul Kent, a longtime supporter of
cryonics and leader of the Life Extension Foundation. On
December 11, 1987, she was suspended (head-only) by Alcor.
Although Dora was clinically dead at that time, she was not
legally dead due to an administrative oversight.
The coroner autopsied the non-suspended portion of Dora's remains. At
first the conclusion was that Dora died of pneumonia. Later the
coroner retracted this, and on January 7, 1988 the coroner's deputies
took all of Alcor's patient care records and attempted to take Dora's
head for autopsy. Mike Darwin said that the head was not at Alcor's
headquarters and he did not know where it was. Mike Darwin and five
other Alcor members were arrested, but when they arrived at the jail
the police realized that they had no charges to use against them.
On January 12 and 13, the Coroner's deputies, UCLA police, and a SWAT
team again entered Alcor's headquarters and removed all computing
equipment in sight, all magnetic media including an answering machine
tape, and prescription medications used for suspensions. Many items
were taken that were not on the warrant.
Years of legal wrangling ensued. The final outcome was that the
coroner lost the next election, Alcor's equipment was returned but
damaged, and all charges against Alcor or Alcor members were
eventually defeated or dropped. None of Alcor's patients were
thawed. Fortunately, no suspensions needed to be done while
the police had custody of Alcor's equipment.
References: Cryonics 10(12), December 1989, and 9(1), January 1988.
4-4. What about that fellow in the news with the brain tumor?
His name is Thomas Donaldson. His tumor is not growing at present,
but when and if it begins growing again, it is likely to seriously
damage his brain before it kills him. He went to court to petition
for the right to be suspended before legal death. The case has been
appealed several times. He lost the most recent appeal, as of July
16, 1992. The decisions of the judges are available from Alcor.