Cryonics – Suspension by Freezing
CRYONICS AND THE ALCOR LIFE EXTENSION FOUNDATION
CRYONIC SUSPENSION is an experimental procedure whereby
patients who can no longer be kept alive with today’s medical
abilities are preserved at low temperatures for treatment in the
Although this procedure is not yet reversible, it is based on
the expectation that medical technology of the future will be able
to cure today’s diseases, reverse the effects of aging, and repair
any additional injury caused by the freezing process.
That in future time, superior technology could then rejuvenate
suspended patients to enjoy health and youth indefinitely.
The field which deals with this procedure is called CRYONICS.
(This should not be confused with “cryogenics,” which is the branch
of physics which studies very low temperatures.)
Cryonics is not a cult or a religion of any kind. The people
involved in cryonics hold widely varying views on religion,
politics, and social issues. Their occupations include scientists,
physicians, computer programmers, business owners, teachers,
librarians, and secretaries. However, they all agree that being
alive is a wonderful thing and that this technology may help them
stay that way.
Cryonics might better be seen as a experimental medical
technology. This label may seem strange at first, since many
people are under the mistaken impression that cryonics patients are
Cryonics is not a new way of storing dead bodies. It is a new
way of saving lives. Cryonicists refer to these frozen people as
PATIENTS , because we firmly believe that they are, in some manner,
People really are being frozen; it is no longer science
fiction. Approximately 50 persons have been frozen since the first
cryonic suspension in 1967. About 300 other people have made the
financial and legal arrangements to be suspended in case they should
become terminally ill or injured.
However, any stories you may read about frozen people being
revived are definitely science fiction. No human has ever been
thawed out and revived, and it will be a long time before this
happens. Medical technology has not yet advanced to the point
where cryonic suspension is reversible; today’s deadly illnesses and
injuries are not yet curable; and even if these things had been
accomplished, there is no point in reviving anyone until the aging
process is fully under control. No one wants to be reawakened as an
aged, infirm person.
Cryonics is not yet accepted as a legitimate life-saving
procedure by today’s medical authorities. With our current
technology we cannot prove that a frozen human can be repaired and
revived (although a great deal of research suggests that this will
be possible in the future).
Unfortunately, this situation creates numerous medical, legal,
and even political difficulties.
For instance, if a patient were to be suspended while he was
legally alive, someone might claim that the suspension process
itself had killed that patient, creating the possibility of criminal
or civil charges against the suspension team.
Therefore, current cryonics practice is to suspend dying
patients as soon as possible after cardiac arrest (stopping of the
heart) and declaration of “legal death.”
This course of action can be seen as reasonable once one
realizes that “legal death” is not the same as “biological death.”
A physician declares legal death when a patient’s condition
cannot be repaired with current medical knowledge and techniques.
However, the process of deterioration which we call “dying” is
not a sudden happening. It is much more like slipping into an ever
Even several hours after declaration of death, most of the
cells in the body (including those in the brain) are still
individually alive and ready to regain function.
As late as the 1940’s, people who stopped breathing because of
heart attacks or drowning were routinely declared dead.
Today thousands of people have survived heart attacks and other
conditions which would have been fatal 40 years ago. Children have
survived over an hour of “drowning” in cold water.
Were those heart attack and drowning victims really dead forty
years ago, but nature has changed the rules today?
Of course not; those people were still alive — doctors just
did not know what to do about it. In the same way, most people who
are declared dead TODAY would be called “alive” by doctors of the
future. With that prospect in mind, we think these patients should
be considered “alive” NOW, and we should do something to KEEP them
Even within the next 10-15 years, you are likely to be amazed
by the amount of progress in recovering patients from strokes, heart
attacks, and lack of oxygen to the brain.
Ultimately, it should be possible to recover patients as long
as basic brain structure remains intact (several hours past the
point at which today’s doctors give up). In the next century, the
medical knowledge of the 1980’s will seem as primitive as the
medical understandings of one hundred years ago seem to us.
Cryonic suspension itself will cure nothing, but it buys time
for the patient, keeping his body virtually unchanged until a future
when his frozen condition may be considered only an extremely deep
Even now there is solid evidence that cooling the human body to
liquid nitrogen temperature (-320o F), with the use of techniques to
reduce freezing injury, can preserve the fine structure of the brain
There is no guarantee that cryonic suspension will ever allow
for future revival. We do not know enough to state absolutely that
this procedure is workable. However, the case for the possible
future revival of suspended patients grows stronger all of the time.
One recent argument in favor of future repair and revival of
suspended patients was provided by K. Eric Drexler in his
fascinating book, ENGINES OF CREATION (Doubleday, 1986).
This book details the beginnings of the new field of
“nanotechnology” (also called “molecular engineering”).
Nanotechnology is the next step smaller than micro-technology,
and it will create industries which will operate by working with
atoms and molecules one at a time. Among other astounding
developments, this will lead to computers and cell repair machines
one thousand times smaller than a human cell.
Such devices could repair any disease or injury (including that
from freezing) by working directly on the cells themselves.
It must be pointed out that cryonicists are not people with
some fixation on cold temperatures. None of us want to be frozen.
We are simply people who like being alive, and who want to see the
future and all of its wonders. For us, cryonics provides a safety
net, a last-ditch attempt at life-saving which may give us the
chance to see that future.
Our cryonics organization, Alcor Life Extension Foundation
(“Alcor”), is a California not-for-profit corporation, registered
with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt scientific
Alcor has a fully equipped and operational research laboratory,
operating room, and patient storage facility in Riverside,
Alcor was formed as a mutual aid society, where the members are
committed to helping each other. All Alcor board members,
officials, and suspension team personnel are required to be full
suspension members. We do not want a situation which could pit
“Alcor” against “the members.” Alcor IS its members.
All decisions on the safety of the patients and stability of the
organization are made with the knowledge that they will affect
everyone in the organization.
If you would like further information, you may order the
following publications (among others) from Alcor:
ALCOR: THRESHOLD TO TOMORROW
(introductory booklet) FREE for 1st copy.
Extra copies $5.00 each.
THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF CRYONICS
(selected reprints) $10.00.
SIGNING UP MADE SIMPLE
(How to provide the legal and financial arrangements for cryonic
suspension, with filled-out sample forms.) $12.00.
Subscription to CRYONICS magazine
at $25.00 per year (12 issues).
Fascinating articles and discussion on the current state of
cryonics, plus science updates.
Please send check or money order; no cash over $1.00 please.
Phone toll-free to use Visa or MasterCard. Make all checks
payable to Alcor Life Extension Foundation and mail to:
Alcor Life Extension Foundation
12327 Doherty Street,
Riverside, California 92503