Earlier this year, a 14-year-old British girl suffering from a rare form of cancer won a major legal battle to have her body cryogenically frozen after her death. The teenager, who died in October, has since been moved to the US, where she is one of 250 people being preserved after death. Following this BBC story , several media outlets were outraged and questioned the reliability of Cryonics.
Death has always been a controversial subject, with Christianity and Islam stating that there is a life after death and the quality of your life after death depends on how you lead this life. Cryonics is used by various people for a myriad of reasons and maybe one of them is to have another opportunity at life.
Tim Gibson of charity, Cyronics UK suggests that those who choose the process are often scientists who simply want to preserve their data”, explaining why many of those who have undergone the process have had only their heads cryopreserved. Cryonics originated in 1962, with the book ‘The Prospect of Immortality’ authored by the Founder of the Cryonics Institute, Robert Ettinger. According to Mr Gibson the book is not exclusively about Cryonics, it also mentions “stem-cell technology” and “nanotechnology” both of which “are in use now”.
Stem-cell technology has experienced a high-level of controversy, especially in terms of embryonic stem-cell research as its seen as cruel and pro-life campaigners are arguing that conception is the start of life, raising ethical questions. Cryonics only happens with the consent of the individual in question and it would take extensive research and in-depth thinking before an individual even decides to be cryopreserved. What is it that subjects Cryonics to so much criticism?
The high cost of Cryonics could be part of the cynicism surrounding the process. Mr Gibson states that £40,000 is on the “lower end of the potential price of Cryonics” this cost is usually paid for “using life insurance”. The sum is high, yet the level of technology and power necessary for cryopreservation could help to explain the cost off the high-tech “equipment” and the medical procedures required. The rest is put into a trust fund that helps to protect the individual in case the Cryonics Institute goes bankrupt.
Marine Engineering Lecturer at Newcastle University, Dr Dawei Wu is interested in this controversial subject, but believes “there is a slim chance that a government body would subsidise the process, so at present it could alienate those less economically mobile.” Mr Gibson also stated that the process could be expensive “for a young family with a few kids”. Dr Wu thinks that Cryonics has a future and “it could also be useful if in the future if we decided to move around in space”.