Cryonics: a method of preserving human bodies to achieve enhanced longevity, perhaps to the point of physical ►immortality.
Cryonics requires the following financial, technical, and social conditions and developments:
■ By taking out a life insurance policy or paying contributions into a fund, a person acquires the rights to unlimited low-temperature storage of her brain or entire body after death. Recurrent expenses are covered by interest revenue generated by the life insurance premiums or by contributions.
■ Due to developments in technology and medicine, future generations will be able to revive low-temperature cooled bodies or body parts, restore their consciousness and memories, cure their illnesses, and extend their lives — perhaps indefinitely. (The fact that no such revival has yet taken place, and thus that the possibility on which cryonics depends is as yet unproven, does not seem to diminish the confidence of cryonics providers in their service.)
■ For humanitarian reasons, or for historical research and education, all low-temperature patients will be resuscitated at some point in the future. The date does not matter, as organs stored at low temperatures can be preserved for up to 30,000 years. In principle, then, somebody born in the twentieth century could find herself in the 320th; true, that's not quite immortality, but it's closer than we get in the normal state of affairs.
Cryonic treatment requires cooling the brain (or, again, the entire body) down to a temperature of 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit) as soon as possible after death in order to stop all processes of decay. (Cryonics providers hope at this point to be able to carry out the cooling prior to death, thus increasing the probability of a full eventual restoration, but at present this is nowhere permitted.) The brain or body is subsequently dehydrated and the water replaced by glycerine. This prevents the formation of ice crystals, which would destroy the cells. The body of the patient is subsequently preserved in liquid nitrogen at −196°C (-321°F). The cracks caused to the vitrificated tissue at a cooling temperature of under −150°C (-238°F) are generally regarded as acceptable since they are, in principle, curable upon resuscitation with appropriate technology. Nonetheless, cyronicists are still searching for an alternative cooling method that would avoid such cracks.
In the ►USA, vitrification of deceased persons has been offered by several institutions and non-commercial ►foundations in return for a monthly contribution of about 200 USD throughout the remainder of the person's life. This amount covers a life insurance policy for which the client pays his premiums into the estate of the foundation, thereby generating interest revenue that covers current cryonic expenses. This financial model guarantees a preservation of the body in nitrogen that, if not temporally unlimited, will at least continue for as long as the the relevant institutions exist and the interest payments are made. It does not, however, cover the costs of resuscitation. For that, the patient will have to depend on the generosity and altruism of future generations.
Both in the US and in Germany, cryonics faces the resistance of public authorities as well as of religious or ideological groups. In Germany, the requirement to bury your dead in a cemetery implies that cryonic preservation must take place at a "burial" location that has been approved specifically for this purpose. In the US, some religious groups resent cryonics for infringing on ►God's monopoly over determining the time of death, while local lawmakers do so for infringing on the more mundane monopoly of the funeral homes. Time and again, these resentments lead to bizarre situations in which cryonics foundations have to use legal, or more or less legal, means to fight court orders demanding the surrender of vitricated patients. Due to the more liberal burial laws of Arizona and California, most cryonics institutes are located in these states.