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Cryonics Frequently Asked Question List Section 4: Controversy surrounding Cryonics Last Modified Sun Jan 29 15:12:31 1995 (You can fetch cryomsg "n" by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "CRYOMSG n", where "n" is a mesage number. 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 a cow." 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 thawing!" As an interesting aside, according to Matthew P Wiener (email@example.com), 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.