CHRONOSPHERE » mike darwin A revolution in time. Fri, 03 Aug 2012 22:34:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Cryonics Intelligence Test Responses Sun, 20 May 2012 17:56:35 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> Introduction

On 06 May, 2012 responses were solicited to what was termed The Cryonics Intelligence Test which was posted here on Chronosphere (see: Two people responded to this public request to “take the test” and provide input on possible solutions to the problems posed by the resource material that accompanied the test. The test consisted of the resource materials and the following  instructions:

Dear ______,

If you can figure out the scientific take home message for cryonics in what is to follow, you will have demonstrated extraordinary insight into “thinking in a cryonics-medical context.”

You will also have the tool to be able to understand why I believe that cryonics must, on a purely scientific-medical basis, be pursued in a fundamentally different way, both biomedically and socially.

The Test: The test resource materials are available for download at ___________, you will find a number of full text peer reviewed scientific papers. In addition, you will be sent several cryopatient case Hxs. Together, these resources contain data which should give a reasonably intelligent person with a properly prepared mind a fundamentally new insight into a major, indeed overwhelming flaw in how cryonics has been, and currently is practiced.

Your task is to:

a) identify the problem(s)

b) identify one or more possible solutions

You have 5 days to complete this task. Your response should be in the form of a succinct statement of the problem, and an itemization, and if you like, a discussion of possible solutions.

Thanks for your patience and cooperation.

Mike Darwin


The reasons for  this exercise were as follows (in no particular order):

To answer the question posed to me by Alcor CEO on what was the most important research to be undertaking in cryonics at this time.

To determine if a representative cross section of people not actively employed in cryonics, or working in cryonics-related research, would independently reach the same or same similar conclusions about a heretofore not understood or appreciated major problem in cryonics and propose the same possible solutions (or novel ones) to said problem.

To evaluate the caliber of the intellects (who chose to participate) who read Chronosphere.

To attempt to determine the number of Chronosphere readers who were willing to accept the challenge of  exposing their judgment and intellectual performance to scrutiny, either by myself, publicly, or both.

To determine the approximate number of people who took the time and exerted the effort to at least peruse the article and download the Test Resource Materials.

To attempt to get a preliminary idea of the nature of the readers of Chronosphere and their interest in highly technical topics of serious relevance to cryonics.

To gauge the impact and reaction of both the leadership of the cryonics community, and the cryonics community itself, to the revelations that result from this exercise and the commentary that is to shortly follow it.

To solicit novel solutions to the central problem posed in the exercise.

To inform the community at large, both the cryonics community and the public, of this serious problem in the way human cryoprerservation is currently being pursued (e.g., informed consent).


Two people (Alexander McLin and Gerald Monroe ) responded to the public request on Chronosphere to take the test. Prior to publicly soliciting responses, fifteen individuals of diverse backgrounds in cryonics were privately asked to take the test. Of these, eleven agreed to do so and of those eleven, ten completed the test. Of the ten privately solicited respondents, three agreed to allow publication of their answers; two with the use of their names. One individual, a young academic pursuing advanced graduate degrees, asked for and was granted anonymity, due to the likelihood that open involvement in cryonics could prejudice his academic career.

Since it is not possible for the responses of those who chose not to allow publication to be evaluated here, I will not make any comment on them beyond noting that they exist and that they, along with those of the respondents who did allow publication, were material in making the decision to pursue an open solicitation here for additional respondents.

At this time, the answers of the respondents are being presented absent any biographical/background information, so as not to bias the reader as he reads and considers each response. At a later date, I will edit this post to add a brief (few sentences) background description on each of the participants in order to provide demographic data on the participants as a group (e.g., how many were biomedically sophisticated, laypersons, long-time cryonicists, novices, etc.).[1]


Responses are presented in alphabetical order (by name of the respondent). The only editing that has been done is to to correct typographical errors.

Alexander McLin

After studying the test materials, I have come to the following conclusions about how cryonics is currently practiced today and the problem with its current standards of practice. The problem is that cryonics isn’t effectively managing ischemia, nor it doesn’t seem to be incorporating medical findings about how the brain is affected by hypotension, hypoventilation, and hyperventilation.

Moreover, research in determining a method to predict onset of cardiac death after life-saving treatments is withdrawn indicate that this is difficult to do so, this in conjunction with other papers, show that the brain damage begins almost as soon as a patient’s circulatory system begins to fail. This is problematic from the cryonics point of view, because long before cardiac death is declared, the brain may have already suffered irreversible ischemia damage preventing optimal cryonics suspension.

The research materials furthermore show that hyperventilation when administrated for whatever reason actually makes things worse and that hypoventilation is preferred. With this in mind, do cryonics providers incorporate that finding when administrating oxygen to patients as part of the stabilization protocol?

To summarize, the conclusions I arrived at are that current cryonics providers are failing to manage ischemia, failing to research ways to predict the degree of severity of ischemia, failing to engage in proactive activities to minimize ischemia pre- and post-deanimation, and not incorporating medical findings in improving brain survivability in presence of hypotension and hypoventilation. In addition, there appear to be a lack of an attempt to maintain extensive database of patient medical history, collection of body fluids for pre and post-deanimation, and pre- and post-suspension which is essential for research intended to improve cryonics practices.

Here I will discuss solutions I have come up to address some of the conclusions I have arrived at. The biggest problem is the issue of ischemia and how likely it is to occur once oxygen is interrupted and also how sensitive the brain is to reperfusion injury. I would review the existing protocols to ensure whether they’re adequately taking the reperfusion injury into account, whether medicines need to be updated(add or remove medicines) with respect to the latest medical findings. It should be verified via meaningful actual research whether the cool-down equipment is really minimizing ischemia.

Finally, how can cryonics address the crucial issue of the existing medical-legal atmosphere that require patients to be declared dead according either to the cardiac or brain death definitions. Both which ensure that the brain will suffer ischemia damage before suspension occurs. How can cryonicists safely arrange for optimal cryonic suspension free of problematic legal implications? This suggests a need to engage in policy lobbying and pushing for legislation aimed towards changing the legal situation for the betterment of cryonics. To put it so bluntly, it appears that voluntary euthanasia is a cryonicist’s best friend, as distressing and stressful it may sound.

Lastly, cryonics providers need to establish a medical database and engage in much more data collection than they are doing at present. Some of the patient histories show recurrent problems with their collection equipment, do they need to be upgraded or replaced? Research in minimizing or preventing ischemia should be undertaken to determine how to optimize brain preservation prior to beginning suspension.

Mark Plus

Many cryonicists in hospice conditions currently deanimate and are pronounced after agonal periods similar to shock which result in prolonged hypoperfusion and hypoxia of the brain. These lead to significant compromises of the brain’s vasculature (e.g., the brain’s ability to self-regulate its blood flow to certain regions like the hypothalamus when the arterial pressure drops below 40 mm Hg) and interfere with cardiopulmonary support, washout and especially perfusion with cryoprotectants, not to mention the havoc they must cause to the brain’s fine structure.

Also, the trend towards harvesting organs from patients who are pronounced cardiac-dead after as little as two minutes of asystole is probably not a good thing for cryonicists, if the laws change to make it harder to opt out of such donations which will have the effect of ensuring thorough brain death.

My suggestions:

Use people with professional training in shock medicine and anesthesiology to perform the cardiopulmonary support after pronouncement. Monitor the level of brain perfusion with the proprietary bispectral index technology (which I had to look up and I’d like to read more about) to determine if brain hypoperfusion happens. Hypoventilate the patients.

Premedicate cryonicists before pronouncement with drugs like piracetam, arginine vasopressin and NO inhibitors, mentioned in the papers you sent me. You also wrote that Jerome White had attempted to premedicate himself with over the counter supplements until a few weeks before his suspension.

Cryonicists with terminal illnesses should consider moving to places where the laws allow assisted euthanasia so that they can go into arrest and undergo the suspension procedure well before their agonal decline.

Cryonics organizations need to gather a lot more data when they perform suspensions based on the current state of the medical art. The S-100B assay should be used along with other assays to measure brain injuries. These assays plus the bispectral index data can provide badly needed feedback on the effectiveness of brain perfusion procedures.

If the patient can’t deanimate at the time of his choosing, use some of the medical models developed by the DCD researchers to better estimate the patient’s time of cardiac death during standby.

I hope my answers and recommendations are not too off the mark, and I suspect I’ve misunderstand or failed to notice some key points. You gave me a lot of unfamiliar material to absorb in a short amount of time. After a few more weeks of study, I could probably understand it better. Some kind of primer would also help. A few years ago I speculated that based on actuarial considerations, the ideal candidate for cryosuspension would have to be a healthy ten year old who could walk into the lab and lie down on the table. That leaves the rest of us somewhere away from optimal candidacy for cryosuspension. But then, what can we do about it?

And I do plan to study this further, so thank you very much for the scientific background information, and feel free to send me additional papers.

Other observations:

I notice the contrast between the thorough reports you’ve written for the suspensions you’ve performed versus the ones written by Alcor’s “pod people,” which apparently includes Aaron Drake. Several things seem to go wrong with about every suspension Alcor has done lately, including basic preparations like not having the tray of all the necessary surgical tools ready for Dr. Nancy or the surgeon. I knew in a vague way that things had gotten bad, but you’ve given me some idea of how bad.

The scientific literature started to report the effects of shock and hypoperfusion decades ago, but you wouldn’t know that from the “official” cryonics propaganda. It seems like the cryonics movement should have incorporated this knowledge from the very beginning, but then physicians, surgeons and neuroscientists have mostly avoided cryonics and deprived us of their expertise. Dr. Ravin Jain, a neurologist, sits on Alcor’s board, and he should know this stuff, but I don’t get the impression that he’s done anything to incorporate his knowledge into Alcor’s suspension procedures. The neglect gives cryonics a reputation for “scienciness” and pseudoscience which it doesn’t necessarily have to have.

Gerald Monroe

a. The current techniques practiced for all the cryonics cases most likely result in long periods of ischemic hypoperfusion to the brain. Instruments now exist to detect this, combining the bispectral index with near infrared spectroscopy, and apparently even when top notch experts support cardiac surgeries on children, the hypoperfusion is common.

The ischemia and the hypoperfusion are very, very bad. Of course, so is the freezing. And the storage in liquid nitrogen where dissolved oxygen can reach the tissues and oxidize them. And the shoestring budget (compared to even a single hospital) the cryonics organizations have to do everything on.

b. It doesn’t sound like these problems are insoluble if there were real resources (compared to those spent to delay death from cancer by a few months, for instance) dedicated to the problem. Tomorrow, if cryonics had the resources of a single major metropolitan hospital, it could actually solve these problems in a systemic way.

There have to be experiments done on animals, where many different techniques* are attempted and evaluated. Evaluations should be done by preparing synapses of slices of the subject’s brain following the freezing. Also, rewarming and function tests (of slices), once the state of the art reaches the point that this is practical.

The human patients have to be part of this evaluation. If no one looks, the mistakes made will never be corrected. Somehow very small pieces need to be removed as samples from the human patients, following each cryonics procedure, small portions mostly taken from sections of the patient’s brain not thought to contain unique personality information.

And so on. Real improvements don’t come easily or cheaply – they come incrementally, with great effort, and honest evaluation of the results of each change. The last element is probably the most important of all.

The history of medicine is littered with many, many examples where something becomes common practice without honest testing of the results. Pretty much universally it fails.

With all that said, for those of us right here, alive in an era where cryonics does not have the resources it deserves, it is simply Pascal’s wager. No matter how dim the odds are, some chance of a form of survival is better than none. Information is probably duplicated inside the human brain many times over, and all of the decay processes that work against cryonics are things that happen according to predictable laws of physics. In a future world where a brain could be scanned at the molecular level, there is probably at least some recoverable memory and personality data for even the worst cryonics case.

For some, the prospective of saving even an incomplete fragment of yourself is better than the guaranteed destruction by rotting in the ground or burning in an incinerator.

Why it is like it is : the cryonics organizations don’t have any money. There’s probably a hundred new things that could be tried, and most of them are not better than what is being done now. Every dollar spent now is a buck less that could go to protecting the existing patients over many more decades.

Moreover, without any way to evaluate the current baseline : how effective is cryonics actually preserving the patients, right now? Making changes blindly is stupid. In the history of medicine, time and time again, it has been found that when a simple and dumb medical technique is compared honestly to a more expensive and advanced technique, almost universally the difference is minimal to none. A few examples : diuretics work as well as the far more expensive and specific beta blockers, film X-rays provide basically the same therapeutic improvement as the vastly more expensive CTs and MRIs, physical therapy works about as often as spine surgery, etc.

This is why in countries with socialized medicine, with outdated equipment and techniques and long wait lists, the patients live almost as long. (and the population lives years longer due to better lifestyles)

* A few ideas that might or might not work :
1. More rapid cooling by exposing the brain to coolant with burr holes and connecting pumps directly to cerebral perfusion
2. Drugs to prevent the cerebral arterioles from closing when exposed to cold perfusate.
3. Calcium blockers to prevent apoptotic pathways from triggering
4. Oscillating magnets like the Japanese claim work for transplanting teeth
5. Skipping cryonics entirely and plastinating the brain

Jordan Sparks, DMD

Well, I’ve read all the papers. I’ve attached the notes I made. I know you said I could skim them a little more quickly, but I was having trouble understanding and remembering. I needed to use a more aggressive approach this time. I did the references to help me get organized, and if I had to do that again I would do it without listing out all the names. Anyway, this is where I’m at.

I have a tentative answer which I may refine later. I’m continuing to think about it. You only gave me one cryopatient case Hx. I notice that it’s rich with hematology and chemistry data. Repeated samples were taken and charted over time. Both the TBW circuit and the cryoprotective perfusion circuit are well documented. Pressures and flow rates are nicely charted. Also, glycerol, blood gas, and pH were monitored during cryoprotective perfusion. The lab samples, in particular, are notable because that is not the current practice of Alcor or CI. It would take me some time to look back through case reports to see when was the last time this was done.

a) Cryonics providers are currently disregarding complexity associated with the biochemical milieu. I’m not quite sure how to state it, but all of the 22 papers treated their problems as a complex interplay of the mechanical issues as well as the biochemistry. Reading current Alcor and CI reports, on the other hand, there is a total disregard for the role of biochemistry.

That’s my first stab at it. I wish I could state it better, and I might try to rewrite it. I might wait for feedback from you before I go much further in case I’ve missed your point.

1.  Fast recovery from shock used vasopressor combined with hypertonic saline starch.  Slow recovery used fluid resuscitation.  Propofol and Hb concentrations were comparable in both groups.  The fast recovery resulted in better cerebral perfusion and a higher BIS that was likely due to the better perfusion.  CPP =MAP−ICP.

2.  Three resuscitation protocols: 1=FR (fluid resuscitation), 2=NA/HS (noradrenaline/ hypertonic starch), and 3=AVP/ HS (arginine vasopressin/HS).  The AVP/HS group had faster and higher increase in MAP and CCP as well as better survival.  Also, ICP was lower.

3.  After significant hypervolemia, cerebral circulation decompensation occured.  There were significant regional variations in cerebral blood flow.  The redistribution favored the areas related to cardiovascular control.

4.  Patients in shock can have normal physiological, hematological, fluid, and electrolyte balance but still die due to metabolic abnormalities.

5.  In spite of mechanisms for preferential shunting of blood to the brain, low MAP will result in poor perfusion.  This results in inadequate oxygenation as well as inadequate lactate washout.  Decreased perfusion leads to ischemic damage.

6.  Hemorrhagic hypotension was induced in dogs which was still above the lower limit of cerebral autoregulation.  This resulted in an increased turnover of free fatty acids in the CSF.

7.  Moderate reduction of MAP in anesthetized cats resulted in no significant EEG changes.  Below 40 mm Hg, cortical rhythms slowed and then stopped.  Cell damage was only found below 40 mm Hg.

8.  Baboons were pretreated with Phenoxybenzamine (PBZ) before hypovolemic shock, and it prevented the fall in cerebral blood flow.  EEG does not normally return after reinfusion.

9.  Bispectral index (BIS) dropped to 0 during cerebral hypoperfusion.

10.  For donation after cardiac death (DCD) kidneys, prolonged severe hypotension was a good predictor of subsequent organ function.  Donor age also correlated with worse outcome.

11.  Dogs anesthetized and hypovolemic shock induced for 2 hours.  NMR used to monitor phosphate metabolism.  Upon fluid resuscitation, phosphate pools quickly returned to near baseline values, but intracellular acidosis persisted.

12.  Hemorrhagic shock combined with increased ICP is particularly damaging.  Increased ICP leads to cerebral ischemia which causes release of thromboxane A2 (TxA2), a potent vasoconstrictor and hypertenstive agent.  The increase in TxA2 persists for at least two hours after reperfusion and results in further cerebral hypoperfusion.  Pretreatment with COX inhibitor ibuprofen decreases TxA2 levels and improves total cerebral blood flow after global cerebral ischemia.

13.  Brain is vulnerable during hypotension and shock, especially long-lasting shock.  Patchy areas of ischemia developed through sludge formation and persisted even after hyperperfusion, indicating the role of local factors.  Phenoxybenzamine pretreatment significantly reduced rCBF changes during shock.

14.  DCD livers result in inferior graft survival compared to donation after brain death (DBD).  A DCD risk index was developed.  The lowest risk is with donor age <= 45 years,  warm ischemia time (DWIT) <= 15 minutes, and cold ischemia time (CIT) <= 10 hours.

15.  CNS activity was measured during hemorrhagic shock under light central anesthesia.  After reinfusion, if neurons failed to recover electrical activity, this was an early indication of eventual irreversibility.  There is a relationship between irreversibility and cumulative oxygen debt and excess lactate.

16.  Rats were subjected to hypoxia and hypotension followed by resuscitation.  Rather than the no reflow that the authors were expecting, they observed hyperemia in some areas for at least two hours.  They concluded that therapy aimed at increasing cerebral blood flow and oxygenation would be insufficient.

17.  Guidelines for controlled DCD are given.  DBD is superior.

18.  DCD score system is described.  Kidneys may benefit from therapeutic interventions before transplantation.

19.  Average values for basal respiratory functions in adolescents and adults.

20.  Severe hypotension causes brain damage.  Microvascular damage results in hemorrhage upon reinfusion.

21.  Prolonged agonal time did not influence kidney transplantation outcome when other variables were closely considered instead.  For example, elderly donors were not included.

22.  During hypovolemic shock, electrical activity and ICP was minimally altered.  The authors interpret this as a lessening of the role of the brain in the genesis and perpetuation of irreversible shock.


1: Cavus E, Meybohm P, Doerges V, Hoecker J, Betz M, Hanss R, Steinfath M, Bein B.  Effects of cerebral hypoperfusion on bispectral index: A randomized, controlled animal experiment during haemorrhagic shock.  Resuscitation.  2010;81:1183-1189.

2: Cavus E, Meybohm P, Doerges V, Hugo HH, Steinfath M, Nordstroem J, Scholz J, Bein B.  Cerebral effects of three resuscitation protocols in uncontrolled haemorrhagic shock: a randomized controlled experimental study.  Resuscitation.  2009;80:567-572.

3: Chen RY, Fan FC, Schuessler GB, Simchon S, Kim S, Chien S.  Regional cerebral blood flow and oxygen consumption of the canine brain during hemorrhagic hypotension.  Stroke.  1984;15:343-350.

4: Cowley RA, Attar S, LaBrosse E, McLaughlin J, Scanlan E, Wheeler S, Hanashiro P, Grumberg I, Vitek V, Mansberger A, Firminger H.  Some significant biochemical parameters found in 300 shock patients.  J Trauma.  1960;9:926-938.

5: Feldman RA, Yashon D, Locke GE, Hunt WE.  Cerebral tissue lactate in experimental oligemic shock.  J Neurosurg.  1971;34:774-778.

6: Fritschka E, Ferguson JL, Spitzer JJ.  Increased free fatty acid turnover in CSF during hypotension in dogs.  Am J Physiol.  1979;236(6):H802-H807.

7: Gregory PC, McGeorge AP, Fitch W, Graham DI, MacKensie ET, Harper AM.  Effects of hemorrhagic hypotension on the cerebral circulation.  II.  Electricocortical function.  Stroke.  1979;10:719-723.

8: Hamar J, Kovach AGB, Reivich M, Nyary I, Durity F.  Effect of phenoxybenzamine on cerebral blood flow and metabolism in the baboon during hemorrhagic shock.  Stroke.  1979;10:401-407.

9: Hemmerling TM, Olivier JF, Basile F, Le N, Prieto I.  Bispectral index as an indicator of cerebral hypoperfusion during off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting.  Anesth Analg.  2005;100:354-6.

10: Ho KJ, Owens CD, Johnson SR, Khwaja K, Curry MP, Pavlakis M, Mandelbrot D, Pomposelli JJ, Shah SA, Saidi RF, Ko DSC, Malek S, Belcher J, Hull D, Tullius SG, Freeman RB, Pomfret EA, Whiting JF, Hanto DW, Karp SJ.  Donor postextubation hypotension and age correlate with outcome after donation after cardiac death transplantation.  Transplantation.  2008;85:1588-1594.

11: Horton JW, McDonald G.  Heart and brain nucleotide pools during hemorrhage and resuscitation.  Am J Physiol.  1990;259:H1781-H1788.

12: Kong DL, Prough DS, Whitley JM, Taylor C, Vines S, Deal DD, DeWitt DS.  Hemorrhage and intracranial hypertension in combination incresae cerebral production of thromboxane A2.  Critical Care Medicine.  1991;19:532-538.

13: Kovach A, Sandor P.  Cerebral blood flow and brain function during hypotension and shock.  Ann Rev Physiol.  1976;38:571-596.

14: Lee KW, Simplins CE, Montgomery RA, Locke JE, Segev DL, Maley WR.  Factors affecting graft survival after liver transplantation from donation after cardiac death donors.  Transplantation.  2006;82:1683-1688.

15: Peterson CG, Haugen FP.  Hemorrhagic shock and the nervous system.  1. Spinal cord reflex activity and brain stem reticular formation.  Annals Surgery.  1965;485-496.

16: Proctor HJ, Wood JJ, Palladino W, Woodley C.  Effects of hypoxia and hypotension on oxygen delivery in the brain.  J Trauma.  1979;19:682-685.

17: Reich DJ, Mulligan DC, Abt PL, Pruett TL, Abecassis MMI, D’Alessandro A, Pomfret EA, Freeman RB, Markmann JF, Hanto DW, Matas AJ, Roberts JP, Merion RM, Klintmalm GBG.  A J Transplant. 2009;9:2004-2011.

18: Plata-Munoz JJ, Vazques-Montes M, Friend PJ, Fuggle SV.  The deceased donor score system in kidney transplants from deceased donors after cardiac death.  European Society Organ Transplant.  2010;23:131-139.

19: Shock NW, Soley MH.  Average values for basal respiratory functions in adolescents and adults.  J Nutrition.  1939;143-153.

20: Tamura H, Witoszka MM, Hopkins RW, Simeone FA.  The nervous system in experimental hemorrhagic shock: morphology of the brain.  J Trauma.  1972;12:869-875.

21: van Heurn LWE.  Prolonged agonal time–not a contraindication for transplantation.  Nat Rev Nephrol.  2011;7:432-433.

22: Yashon D, Locke GE, Bingham WG, Wiederholt WC, Hunt WE.  Cerebral function during profound oligemic hypotension in the dog.  J Neurosurg.  1971;34:494-499.


As you wrote in 1994, the three sources of damage to cryopatients are 1) the underlying disease process, 2) shock and global and trickle flow ischemia secondary to dying and cardiac arrest, and 3) cryoprotectant toxicity and cryoinjury from freezing. This, as far as I can tell, has not changed. So, a flaw in how cryonics is practiced would have to mean that providers are not minimizing the damage from these processes as well as they could be. #1 is out as that is not the primary mission of cryo providers, although I agree with the arguments on your blog that they could add some value here too. #3 is also basically out, because gains over M22 seem unlikely to come in the near future, at least outside of 21CM.

That leaves #2. A number of the papers you sent me study animal models of hemorrhagic shock, and the results are not pretty for preservation of cellular structure. For example, the amount of necrotic cells in Ozkan et al’s paper is pretty high–up to 50% necrotic in the temporal lobe, after just 3 hours. The natural question is: if a cell undergoes necrosis, has it irretrievably lost the information coded in its cellular state? The answer is unclear. On one hand, it may be possible to reverse engineer the process of cell degradation from the surviving clues and thus recover the position of crucial membrane receptors and/or neurites. On the other hand, if the degradation process is random enough, that may not be the case. Probably it depends on the specifics — “cell necrosis” is a broad class.

A number of the other papers look at the acceptability of donors who died of cardiac death. It seems that kidneys can last up to 4 hr’s of warm ischemia with similar function post-transplant, while lungs following can hardly withstand 15 mins of warm ischemia time and still offer good function post-transplant. Meanwhile, it is practically common knowledge that the organ which is least able to survive following ischemic time is the brain. Finally, there is regional susceptibility variation within the brain, and there are reasons to think that regions like CA1 that may be especially important for identity (i.e., memory) are especially vulnerable to ischemia.

To me, this emphasized how quick the interventions must be and how essential it is to maximize the time period during which oxygen perfusion in the brain is high. There’s no reason why neurons have to be able to withstand lack of oxygen for long before randomly decaying — evolution has little reason to select for it. It is a bias of operating on human timescales to think that not much can happen within five minutes, but molecular timescales unfold much faster.

You also sent a few papers that evaluated measures to query brain activity via EEG. You seem to have a particular interest in one EEG-derived algorithm called the Bispectral Index, which in a few fascinating cases actually went to zero in the absence of cerebral blood flow during surgery. These are interesting in part because they could potentially be used to monitor CBF in cryo patients.

Which brings me to the major problem that we see in many of the case reports you sent me. That is, we have good reason to believe that all of them had already experienced a very low brain oxygen perfusion prior to clinical death. The signs of this are many, and include the hyperventilation of A2435 and A2361, the terrible peripheral perfusion of A1556, the hypotension and fluid loss of A1614, ACS9577′s poor perfusion and very low coma scale score, and the long periods of apnea and low blood pressure of A2420. One of the papers that you sent me called the period after removal from life support and cardiac death the “agonal phase”, and this phrase has been aptly used in cryonics to describe the period during which a patient is known to be eminently terminal but has not yet reached cardiac death.

One key question is whether these patients are ever in fact technically brain dead, meaning no neural activity at all, as measured by EEG or CT. If they are, then it is possible that clinical death could be pronounced and preservation techniques could be started much sooner. When I first thought of this, I was hopeful that I had discovered your “problem.” But on further contemplation I’m not so sure, in part because it seems like people would have thought of this. So, I am going with the more obvious, and indeed in some senses more troubling, problem that many or most cryonics patients experience torrents of brain damage during their agonal period.

What to do about this?

1) Somehow establish, in the US, legal recognition of the rights of cryo patients to initiate procedures to preserve brain-encoded identity when the patient is diagnosed by independent physicians to be terminal, in a similar way that organ transplants are.

2) Use a workaround by going to a country like Switzerland that already allows assisted suicide in such cases, perform the cryopreservation there, and then ship the patients back on dry ice to the US.

3) #2, except establish a new storage facility in the foreign country.

4) Develop, drawing off of the “normal” biomedical literature, substantially improved methods for preserving brain oxygen perfusion in agonal cryonics patients, and implement these on a routine basis.

One of the interesting things about this problem is that it is not specific to cryopreservation but would also apply to plastination, and may even be more pronounced there. So this is one area where progress, if any is made on either front, would certainly be synergistic.

A meta thought of mine about this assignment is that I didn’t like the assumption that I would be able to diagnose problems and suggest solutions so quickly to a problem that many people have spent lots of time thinking about. I doubt that what I have written above is at all novel.

Still, I did find it to be a very worthwhile exercise to learn about some details of cryopreservation and its associated medical concepts, and for that, I thank you for offering it to me.


I want to extend a sincere thank you to all who participated in this exercise, and especially to Alexander McLin, Mark Plus, Gerald Monroe, Jordan Sparks, DMD, and “Synaptic” for publicly participating. It takes an enormous amount of courage to undertake such an exercise on the Internet, where it both is and will remain open to public scrutiny, more or less indefinitely. Congratulations gentlemen, you have my unreserved admiration for your courage and for your willingness to take a personal risk in pursuit of the truth. — MD


[1] Excluded from the private solicitation for participation were individuals actively employed in cryonics or working as paid, or indirectly paid employees or contractors for cryonics organizations, or in cryonics-related research. The public solicitation for participation was open to all comers.

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Myth and Memory in Cryonics Sat, 12 May 2012 19:45:41 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> By Mike Darwin

Steven B. Harris, M.D.

In September of 1988, Steve Harris, M.D., published an essay entitled The Day the Earth Stood Still: Cryonics and the Resurrection of the Mythic Hero. It was one of his best in a formidable roster of insightful articles that he wrote dealing with the likely cultural requirements and cognitive limitations that inform humanity’s acceptance, or lack thereof, of cryonics.  I strongly recommend cryonicists read it. Steve’s articles had a great deal of influence on my thinking,  and both Steve and I were, in turn,  influenced by  the philosopher-mythologist-historian Joseph Campbell. I don’t know how Steve was introduced to him, but I first heard of Campbell as a result of the PBS series THE POWER OF MYTH WILL BILL MOYERS, (downloadable here)  which aired in the late 1980s.

I remember breaking out in goose bumps (I have them now) many times during Campbell’s program and, subsequently, when reading his books. His book of the same title as the series is an excellent introduction to his work. I had the same reaction when reading  Steve Harris’ brilliantly insightful articles dealing with issues critical to human perception of, and reaction to cryonics when I read them for the first time in manuscript form, before they were published in Cryonics And I had it again when I read them in “in print” as the final, published product. These works bear reading and rereading and reading again.

The Dead Ant Heap & Our Mechanical Society:

The Return of the Krell Machine:

Will Cryonics Work?:

The Society for the Recovery of Persons Apparently Dead:

Many are Cold But Few Are Frozen:

Frankenstein and the Fear of Science (Lecture), VHS tape:

There are very powerful ideas and insights in these essays which should be a source of influence and inspiration to many more cryonicists, than to those relatively few who have read them, to date.

One of my central points about the reason for the continued “failure” of cryonics, and for its very slow growth, both absolutely and relatively,  is the near total lack of any kind of memory of what has gone before, let alone a sorting out of what part of that history is vitally important to be remembered. It’s as if most cryonicists live only in the present, looking forward to a future exclusively of their own imagining, with just a dim halo of memory extending, perhaps 5 years back, at most.

A few days ago, I had my nth practical example of that. I was contacted by some people interested in establishing cryonics Elsewhere. One of the interesting (and depressing) things they had been told by “cryonics people in the US,” was that it was a “good idea to establish companion for profit and non-profit organizations” to carry out the various functions of the cryonics undertaking with minimal liability.


Maybe that is the best system, but if it is, there is no evidence I know of to support it, and substantial empirical evidence to refute it.

This is an edited version of my response t0 that recommendation:

“I can only tell you what I have observed here over and over again. Maybe you can figure a way around it, or maybe you won’t have the same problems in the first place, owing to cultural differences. I just don’t know.

You will notice that all of the cryonics organizations in the US consist of fully integrated providers. Suspended Animation is the (recent) exception. What’s remarkable about this situation is that it is the polar opposite of what all of us intended when we started cryonics operations here (myself included). There were always paired for profit and not for profit companies, and for just the reasons you’ve stated. CSNY & Cryo-Span, CSC & Cryonic Interment, BACS & Trans Time, IABS & Soma, Cryovita, Manrise & Alcor… And yet there are only single entities around today. Why?

I do not know about your local law, but in the US, it is forbidden for non-profit organizations (NPOs) and for-profit corporations (FPCs) to have interlocking directorates. In fact, it is generally prohibited for corporations related to, or doing business with each other to have interlocking directorates, unless one is mostly or wholly owned by the other, regardless of their status as FPCs, or NPOs. The reasons for this are many and are deeply rooted in corporate law, but mostly can they be reduced to “conflict of interest” issues. In the early days of cryonics, this ban on interlocking directorates was flagrantly disregarded. The inevitable result was that the FPCs completely dominated the NPOs. In fact, FPCs used the NPOs as a convenient shill for doing all the things that were unprofitable, risky, or otherwise not desirable, such as being stuck with the open-ended custody of the patient!

While the initial reason for this was the use of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act (UAGA) to accept the patients, the eventual reason for it became (obviously), proprietary interest. People in the FPCs got paid for their work (usually in shares in the FPC) and people in the NPO didn’t – couldn’t, in fact. Valuable work, work that would earn shares, got done by the FPCs, and everything else got shuffled off onto the NPOs. You can actually  see this happening at the time, if you take a look at the issues of “Life Extension”/”Long Life Magazine” on the CryoEuro Wiki, because people didn’t talk about BACS, they talked about Trans Time… And where the reward, or the potential for reward exists is also typically where all the time, attention and money will flow.

Eventually, as visibility increased, the state began to menace, and the directorates were fully separated. That’s when all hell broke loose! The people running the NPOs had to be disinterested directors, and they did not stand to make money (or shares), or gain in any way from giving advantage to the FPCs. Contracts, fee increases, and all the other “taken for granteds” between the FPCs and NPOs were now up for debate and consideration. And since they were now two truly separate organizations, jealousy, resentment, and plain old proprietary interest and territoriality took over.

I pretty much thought the FPCs would win, primarily because they did have that huge advantage of proprietary interest on their side. But what I hadn’t figured on was the patients! The NPOs had control of the patients; and it was with the patients that the real loyalties ultimately rested. TT and BACS pretty much destroyed each other. In the case of Alcor, Alcor prevailed, and in the case of CI, well, there was never an issue in the first place, since CI was always an integrated operation. And yet, why this happened remains a mystery to many, even to those who have put some effort into finding out what happened.

In a large, diverse and robust marketplace, commercial service providers servicing NPOs could possibly work. SA may be the first of these, but only time will tell.

However, while cryonics is small and not subject to normal market forces, the two organizations model has not been proven workable. It becomes particularly vicious when there is only one service provider and one NPO, but totally different directors (as the law here requires), because then it becomes like a long-married couple who hate each other, but because of children, fiances and other reasons, cannot divorce. Far from creating the checks and balances it was anticipated to, this set-up created a state of gridlock and animosity. Ultimately, it degenerated to people on both sides screaming that the other was trying to screw them. And since they couldn’t stop dealing with each other and go to the “competition,” it just ground on until there was little or nothing left. That is, in fact, in significant measure, how Alcor was reborn.

Finally, you will encounter this problem: the FPC will be absolutely essential to the NPO, because the FPC will hold all the assets for delivering the up-front (immediately legally riskiest) part of cryopreservation (CP). They will own the equipment, employ the people, own the vehicles…. So the NPO eventually finds itself not just held hostage to FPC , but at risk if the FPC screws up.

I’ll give you a highly personal example. I was a major shareholder in Cryovita, the service provider to Alcor, but Jerry Leaf held most of the shares. Alcor relied on Cryovita completely for rescue and perfusion and there were no alternative service providers available – none. Alcor didn’t own so much as a cannula, or a set of scrub clothes. Cryovita was a shares corporation and the shares were distributed in a complex and potentially problematic way. It seemed possible that if Jerry were to suddenly experience medico-legal death, that the continued smooth functioning of Cryovita could be at risk of being disrupted. That became one of several causes of a major split between Jerry and I, because I realized, as President of Alcor (which I was, at that time), that if Jerry dropped “dead,” Alcor’s ability to deliver CP could be at risk of disruption. Alcor didn’t have cash lying around to go buy all the required equipment in a hurry! It had taken Jerry and me many years to patiently accumulate it, and to do so at well below market rates.

But it was worse than that, because over the years, Cryovita had generated patents, made exclusive agreements, and otherwise done all kinds of normal business things that corporations do. The problem was, all that “stuff” was also needed and used by Alcor! So, I began acquiring those same capabilities for Alcor, which was, of course, a costly duplication of capital equipment and it caused a feeling of resentment in Jerry/Cryovita.

So, what actually happened when Jerry did have a heart attack and was CPed? Well, exactly what I thought might happen, but in a way I never could have imagined. Cryovita did split from Alcor (kindly selling Alcor some of the most critical assets Alcor needed to stay in business), but the people who took Cryovita away were Kathy Leaf (Jerry’s widow), Saul Kent, Paul Wakfer, Brenda Peters and myself – the very people who had been the most ardent advocates of Alcor for so hard and long.

What happened to Cryovita? Well, it morphed in various ways, but today it is known as 21st Century Medicine!

Naturally, this version of events will be strongly biased by my point of view, so I would suggest you ask others and check it out for yourself. Look at the back issues of “Life Extension” and “Long Life” magazine on the CryoEuro Wiki to get a feel for the “Trans Times” of the 1970s and ’80s. Jim Yount, John Day and especially Frank Rothacker of ACS, may also be able to provide you with valuable perspective.”

My guess is that almost all of the newcomers to cryonics over the past decade, or so, have not read any of Steve Harris’ essays. And they clearly know little of the actual history of cryonics, let alone have any distillation (regardless of the direction of its bias) of what is important in that history to remember and act upon.

If you Google “history of cryonics” this what comes up on the first page (and subsequent pages offer no greater resources). Ben Best’s article is actually the most popular (longitudinally). It’s a fine, bare-bones factual narrative. But it is bloodless and lesson-less; it provides no instruction for others striving to create cryonics without recreating our errors. [I want to be very clear here that this is not a criticism of Ben's article: it was not written to be a tutorial on the lessons to be learned from the history of cryonics.]

What makes history both “teachable” and “leanable” is the humanity of it. We are, as Campbell so eloquently said, “story creatures”; we learn through guided narrative informed by the power of the mythic. BACS, TT, CSNY, Cryo-Span, Alcor, Manrise, CI, these entities were created by individual people for very personal reasons, as well as for the visible and easily understood public ones. Most contemporary cryonicists seem to recoil from any consideration of the “messy” and “untidy” aspects of the personal motivations and dynamics that drove (and drive) organizations, in and out of cryonics. And yet, that’s where a lot of the most important reasons and answers are to be found that will lead on to successes, or doom us to repeated failures.


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Freezing People Is Easy Tue, 08 May 2012 03:59:06 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> Clockwise: Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, Kirsten Wiig, Christopher Walken, with Errol Morris in the center.

By Mike Darwin

Sometime in the next few months, it seems likely that Director Errol Morris’ take on Bob Nelson’s account of the cryopreservation of James H. Bedford, We Froze the First Man, retitled Freezing People is Easy, will go into production. The title is at once sarcastic, brilliant, inspired and accurate, because, as readers of Chronosphere already (should) know, freezing people is anything but easy. While there have been many movies made that touch on cryonics, use it as a plot element, or even rely on it  as a major enabler of the story, this will be the first film about cryonics. It is, of course, quiet possible for a film about  cryonics to be good – even great – and still be bad for it. This film offers substantial possibilities for both of those elements to be in play.

Perhaps the most important thing to beware of is that the script is not based solely upon Nelson’s heavily (positively) biased and often inaccurate memoir, but also upon the searingly acerbic episode of Ira Glass‘ popular Public Radio International (PRI) radio show, This American Life (full program at this link). What’s more, Glass is also a co-producer of Freezing People is Easy. It is possible to listen to the This American Life episode, entitled Mistakes Were Made, and forget the context in which it was aired on PRI – as part of a series of pieces on scumbags in public life who refuse to take responsibility for their bad acts.To know that this so, one has only to read this excerpt from the review of that broadcast by cryonicist, author and social psychologist Ronald G. Havelock, published in the May, 2009 issue of  Long Life, the news organ of the Cryonics Institute/Immortalist Society:

“First of all, I think we should absolve Nelson of blame for what happened. This poor
man was struggling with a task which was way over his head. He deceived himself, as
others have before and since, with the notion that many people would flock to cryonics
once they realized that it had a real possibility of working. he greatly underestimated
the length of time it would take for cryonics to become popular. We are still
waiting. More importantly, he also greatly underestimated the basic requirements for
making it work, the first of which is to have an adequately funded and competently
staffed facility with the ability to maintain itself over long periods. I think he gambled
that, something like that mythical ball field, if he started it and had real capsules
filled with liquid nitrogen, they would come. Those who actually came, including the
famous Dr. Bedford, came with hope and desperation in their hearts but they came
empty-handed. How could they imagine that this service would be free? Simply put,
they took advantage of this man, and he returned the favor by promising much more
than he could possibly deliver.” [1]

It is also possible to forget that, first and foremost, Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, The Guardian, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara: center photo in montage above) is a documentarian with a clever, often indirect, but always ruthless approach to making film show the truth and expose hypocrisy.

Zach Hem authored the script and while his narrative talent might be questioned on the basis of his botched effort in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, he also wrote the script for the 2006 film Stranger Than Fiction, which is a surprisingly intellectual meditation on life, death and the power of the mundane to make life worth living. Helm’s take on Nelson and Chatsworth should be especially interesting, because his perspective in Stranger Than Fiction and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium suggest he may favor the intrinsic value of the individual life; the issue which makes or breaks a viable approach to a “cryonics friendly” perspective in any work of art.

 Somehow I doubt it though, and the casting of Paul Rudd (CluelessAnchorman, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Dinner for Schmucks) to play Nelson does nothing to reassure me. It has also been reported that Owen Wilson and Christopher Walken are on-board – one wonders what their respective roles will be; Norman Bedford and Robert Prehoda?  Or perhaps Walken will play Bob Ettinger? If, as rumored, Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig also joins the cast, will she play Nelson’s then wife, or the author of We Froze the First Man, Sandra Stanley, to whom Nelson was confiding the details of Dr. Bedford’s cryopreservation and with whom he was reportedly having an affair at that time?

The book is rich in characters familiar to those with any history in cryonics: Saul Kent, Curtis Henderson, Bob Ettinger, Robert Prehoda, Dick Jones (aka Dick Clair), Dante Brunol, MD, Stella Gramer…and many more. It should be a fascinating exercise to see which, if any, of these supporting characters makes it into the film by name, or in a clearly recognizable way.

But will Freezing People is Easy get made, and if so, what will be its fate? Cryonics has been around for 50 years and attracting international attention for almost all of them. Thus, it should come as no surprise that there were two previous efforts to make movies where cryonics was the subject of the film, most notably, a film of Norman Spinrad’s darkly comedic and politically (left) loaded science fiction novel, Bug Jack Barron. For over 30 years, there were regular reports from the Hollywood intelligentsia (an oxymoron, I know) that Bug Jack Barron was to be made by Universal Studios, directed by Costa-Gavras, with the script written by Harlan Ellison. The story of why Bug Jack Barron never made it onto film has the same bizarre, cursed and insane quality to it as does the history of cryonics itself.

The story of why Thomas Berger’s (Little Big Man) novel Vital Parts never made it into production is even more tragic,  and the links with cryonics go deeper. The first go-round at Vital Parts the movie, was in 1971, with a when director Hal Ashby (Being There Harold and MaudeThe Landlord and Let’s Spend the Night Together ), with Walter Matthau was slotted to play the principal character in the novel, Carlo Rheinhart (a long running character of Berger’s whose middle aged make over in this novel was reportedly inspired by Bob Nelson), the loser in the midst of a mid-life crisis who is seduced into involvement in the bizarre world of cryonics by the seemingly transtemporal Bob Sweet – a man from Rheinhart’s distant past who seemingly knows too much to be merely human.

Berger had visited the Cryonics Society of new York (CSNY) repeatedly to gather background information for his book, so it is no accident that a Mr. Softy ice cream  truck features prominently in the novel; Gillian Cummings (aka Beverly Greenberg), who was later to die tragically in the CSNY facility, drove a Jolly Tim’s ice cream truck to help pay the liquid nitrogen bills for her father, Herman Cummings (aka Herman Greenberg). And it is also probably no accident that the creepily mysterious bob Sweet shares the same last name with on the most prominent cryonics patients of the time; the liberal (“negro rights”) activist Marie Phelps Sweet, later lost at Chatsworth, along with the other Cryonics Society of California (CSC’s) patients who were also in the custody of Bob Nelson. Matthau’s son, and the apple of his eye, Charlie Matthau, was later to become a signed up, bracelet wearing cryonicist who was condemned to watch his father die by inches while doing everything in his power to both keep him alive (he kept portable defibrillators in his father’s home, car and work places) and unsuccessfully persuade him to make cryonics arrangements.

Left to Right: Walter Matthau, Charlie Matthau and Hal Ashby.

The next go round at turning Vital Parts into a movie was in 1987, with the irascible, reclusive and heavily drug abusing Ashby trying to make a comeback from his exile to television with another important, quirky film. This time Danny deVito had been recruited to play Rheinhart, and, in an inspired bit of casting, Gene Hackman had agreed to play Bob Sweet. During a meeting between Ashby and the producer Jerome Hellman to discuss finalization of the production of Vital Parts, Hellman became aware of what appeared to be “traveling phlebitis” in Ashby and shortly thereafter actor Warren Beatty became aware of Ashby’s symptoms, ultimately resulting in Ashby’s seeing an oncologist who diagnosed him with pancreatic cancer, from which he subsequently died in December of 1988.

The two other films which feature cryonics as cryonics (e.g., medical time travel) are screenwriter Mark Andrus’ and director W.D. Richter‘s  1991 Late For Dinner; a treacley, train wreck of a film which reviewer aptly described as a film “so meticulously scrubbed of what we generally think of as entertainment value that the result is mostly a quirky, dawdling snooze,” and the truly, irredeemably awful 1985 film Stitches, starring the late Eddie Albert, Parker Stevenson, Geoffrey Lewis, and Brian Tochi. Oh yes, and I almost forgot to include the garbled and largely incoherent Vanilla Sky (starring Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz) by the otherwise brilliant director Cameron Crowe, of which Stephan Zacharek of said: “Who would have thought that Cameron Crowe had a movie as bad as Vanilla Sky in him? It’s a punishing picture, a betrayal of everything that Crowe has proved he knows how to do right….But the disheartening truth is that we can see Crowe taking all the right steps, the most Crowe-like steps, as he mounts a spectacle that overshoots boldness and ambition and idiosyncrasy and heads right for arrogance and pretension — and those last two are traits I never would have thought we’d have to ascribe to Crowe.” While I am no superstitious mystic, the ill fated bad luck attached to cryonics – in an out of film – makes me want to shout out a warning to all and sundry involved with Freezing People Is Easy, to “Run as far and as fast from the project as you can for both your personal and professional lives.

Any way you look at it, the film promises to be a deep wallow in black comedy. That’s normally a genre I really appreciate, and often enjoy. This time, I’m not so sure. Robert F. Nelson (aka Frank Bucelli) is a bad man – a man who did enormous damage to cryonics, but more importantly, to the lives of the many people he defrauded and destroyed; not the least of which are the 10 cryonics patients whose loss were a direct or indirect result of his actions.  It is probably too much to hope that Helm’s and Morris’ effort could be as dark and well executed a black comedy as Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things, which Roger Ebert aptly summed up as not “a bad movie, just a reprehensible one. It presents as comedy things that are not amusing. If you think this movie is funny, that tells me things about you I don’t want to know.” That’s the movie that should be made about Nelson. The question is, should it be a movie, let alone the first movie, made about cryonics?


[1] This statement is so wrongheadedly stupid on so many levels, it is hard to know where to begin in critiquing it. A good place to start would be by noting that Dr. Bedford hardly came “empty handed” to Nelson, or to cryonics. Instead, he came bearing $250,000 1967 US dollars ($1,714,832.83 in 2012 dollars) all of which was subsequently spent on his cryopreservation. It should also be pointed out that the majority of the families of the patients lost at Chatsworth, and at the Cryonic Interment facility on the East Coast (as well as some of the patients themselves), paid exactly what Nelson asked of them at the time: $10,000 to $15,000 in ~1973 US dollars, or $53,099.29 in 2012 dollars; substantially more than what the Cryonics Institute now charges for whole body cryopreservation today. Finally, this statement neglects the finding of the civil court that found Nelson guilty of fraud and for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

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Dr. Crippen on Mr. Darwin* Sat, 05 May 2012 07:44:49 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> By introduction, I am Dave Crippen, MD, Professor of Critical Care Medicine and Neurological Surgery at the UPMC Medical Center in Pittsburgh. Some of you may know me. I’m the moderator for 18 years duration of CCM-L, the International Critical Care Internet Group (~1000 members).  If you ask almost anyone in the in critical care medicine global village, they probably know me, or know of me.


I have followed the saga of Mike Darwin beginning back in the day of Usenet where Mike maintained a cryonics list. I came upon this list while “surfing the ‘net” and found his editorials interesting. I wrote him an idle question and he wrote back, initiating a sixteen-year roller coaster friendship.

Now in 2012, I hope to make some observations from one who knows him intimately (not too intimately).

18 or so years ago, none of us could have predicted where the miracle of the Internet would take us.  Would any of you have believed ago that many global health care providers would have embraced a hard-core cryonicist as an authoritative voice in medicine?  By “embraced”, I mean they all hang on his every word.  Back in about 2000 they all took up a collection to purchase him a new computer to keep him on-line. Small denomination money came in from all over the world.

Because of that miracle, Mike has most assuredly entered the arena of “legitimate” medicine more than any of you can imagine.  Certainly more than anyone in the self-limiting field of cryonics.  His writings enjoy wide readership among working physicians and health care providers. He has contributed to several articles in a world-class clinical journal “Critical Care” with a journal “impact rating” (lots of clinicians read it) near the top three Critical Care journals in the world.

But it wasn’t an easy task.  As most of you know, Mike is a very unusual person on almost every level. I’ve known him for a very long time and I’ve seen the patterns emerge and descend in his life and I think I know him better than most, if for no other reason than he doesn’t keep friends long.  Like many of the rest of us, Mike has very potent talents combined with demons that keep those talents from wide expression.

Mike’s passion is what most physicians consider the pseudoscience of Cryonics, and he lives for little else. It is his passion and his obsession. At some point years ago, he reached a point in his life where his demons fully expressed themselves and he burned many bridges to those doing administrative and research Cryonics. To this day, those factions exclude him from those activities.

So for a few years around the turn of the century, he didn’t have lot to do with his time. Mike decided that he liked conversing with the members of CCM-L because it allowed him to pontificate about science and other things in life, and all always enjoyed his missives. As time progressed, he got more involved in Cryonics again, and slowly withdrew from CCM-L.

As a practical matter, his baseline default is to be culturally and socially isolated and he seems to be at home there. He works hard to maintain that isolation. He has an extensive history of effectively burning bridges over issues that could probably be resolved with even rudimentary diplomacy; an alien concept to him.

Over the years I have tried to understand why former friends and colleagues so relentlessly exclude him.  Conversations with some of them wondering why his strengths cannot be mined as his (perceived) shortcomings managed. The universal answer is that his (perceived) shortcomings have the capability of being so malignant that they are either afraid of him or any potential benefit isn’t worth the effort.

But Mike is an authentic Genius in Aspic (my term).  He chose to pursue a course of science that: 1. Limited his colleagues to a relatively small culturally isolated group, and 2.  Almost completely excludes him from many of the goals in life he would like to have in a perfect world. He is a genius trapped in Aspic and the “Richest Man in Bogota” ( H.G Wells).  His formidable talents are trapped.  Had he chosen to pursue righteous scientific disciplines, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Feynman.

My role in all this was to try to keep him visible to (for want of a better term) “traditional” science by keeping doors open for him as a writer in the literature of and speaker at meetings attended by scientists of the real world that righteously excludes Cryonics. To some degree, I have been successful in that endeavor, but it hasn’t been easy. Mike’s boundless energy, enthusiasm and confidence is pretty much limited to Cryonics, for which he writes extensive blogs and argues endlessly with critics thereof. His interest in mainstream science has dwindled, and that includes the mainstream scientists of CCM-L, for which he hasn’t much time or energy or interest in being a part of.

I’ve seen this coming for a while which is Why I chose to compile a history of his contributions to CCM-L for posterity. His response was that this volume was a waste of time and of no value to anyone, which is completely in character. I find it curious that this volume is the only book ever written about him that is complimentary.  He rejected all this and quickly evolved attempts to divert or stop altogether any involvement in these projects.

OK, he can be hard to get along with and he can be abrasive and irritating and emotional. We deal with these types with surgeons all the time, but if their benefit exceeds their detriment, we simply manage them more effectively.  Darwin is an authentic genius with a passionate and encyclopedic knowledge of medicine and science. There isn’t enough gold in Ft. Knox to buy that. It’s a gift from God.

I will tell you that I continue to use my influence to get him further inducted into the global medical community because I sincerely believe he is a valuable resource. He’s honest to a fault, beyond intelligent, has impeccable scientific integrity, works hard and has uncanny ability to communicate complex concepts to an eclectic audience. For those reasons, he has the potential to get the ear of clinical medicine.  He has great potential as a writer for medical subjects, and speaker at international meeting. Mike sitting in a 2 X 4 shack in Arizona spending his days grooming the surrounding desert is a waste when his knowledge base and communication abilities have such potential benefit to science.

There is a window of opportunity here to re-think former misadventures in terms of the current needs of science and medicine. The world evolves and we all need to evolve with it, or we’ll become extinct. Mike needs to evolve to something other than lethal or self-limiting iterations.  Who knows, he may be the ticket infiltrating the legitimacy of Cryonics in the global medical community. Weirder things have happened. We, in clinical medicine, learned long ago that the mission transcends personal problems. We learn to manage them better to facilitate a greater good.

*If you are British, yes, he is related to that Crippen, and no, I’m not related to that Darwin.



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Much Less Than Half a Chance Part 4 Thu, 05 Apr 2012 03:00:22 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  

Screening for the Risk of Deanimation

The term “screening” is used in medicine to describe routine examinations or diagnostic procedures of a defined group of individuals to identify diseases or risk factors for same at an early stage. Screening is usually categorized as a  “preventive medical examination” or a  “checkup,” and its aim is to increase the life expectancy of those examined  by reducing the incidence or severity of life threatening disease and enhancing the quality of life. The most accurate examination methods possible should be used to identify as many diseases as possible still in their non-symptomatic phase, so that early treatment or change in life style can be initiated.

It is critically important to understand that the purpose of a “deanimation screening scan” (DSS) is not primarily to interfere with the course of disease or to extend the duration of life during this life cycle. Rather, it is to predict or to warn of impending  deanimation with increased accuracy and precision. Any contemporary medical or health benefits are thus incidental. Indeed, it is precisely when DSSing is used to determine or influence current medical interventions that it becomes dangerous. Knowing when you are likely to deanimate with greater precision, for sole purpose of improving your cryopreservation, carries little if any risk of iatrogenesis beyond that which would be present if you found out you were dying at a later time, or didn’t find out and suddenly collapsed in cardiac arrest from a heart attack, or suffered a massive stroke. It is only when the course of treatment is altered by obtaining the data, or looking at it (see “The Black Box of the Baseline,” below) that DSSing becomes either a practical or an ethical conundrum.

The first problem we confront in a screening test for deanimation risk is that we are moving in completely uncharted waters. We have no benchmarks or baselines on which to structure our screening program, save for a modest number of pilot programs that have been undertaken to evaluate full body scanning as a primary tool for the detection of cancer and atherosclerosis in the general population, or in selected subpopulations. For now, these will have to serve as the basis for our protocols, as well as the important cautionary lessons learned from other screening programs.

For reasons of safety, (see Radiation & Risk, below) Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is preferred over Computerized Tomography (CT), because no ionizing radiation is employed in making the image. MRI has some important limitations at this time, most notably only a few centers have devices that image the coronary vessels with sufficient precision  to allow risk  assessment for coronary artery disease (CAD).  Similarly, screening for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD),(beta amyloid deposits) also requires CT-PET scanning and the associated exposure to ionizing radiation.  So, for the present, CT is the only way to screen for CAD and AD. For this reason, and for those who for economic reasons may need to use CT imaging, it is worthwhile to briefly discuss the much hyped “risks” of radiation from whole body CT scans and this is done in some detail below.

Figure 25: Typical finding in an elderly woman who under prophylactic full body MRI scanning during a clinical trial in Germany to determine if full body scanning would reduce morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer. (Gohde, et al.)

A specimen imaging protocol is presented as Appendix 1 and is taken from the study by Gohde, et al., “Prevention without radiation – a strategy for comprehensive early detection using magnetic resonance imaging,” which was itself a pilot study in the use of MRI as a screening tool for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

The Mechanics

Currently, there is only one way to get a  DSS and that is to do it yourself.  There are several reasons, which will be discussed directly, why that is not a good idea, or certainly not the ideal way  to pursue DSSing. There are a number of reasons for this, starting with the potential for harm. Primum non nocere is the first dictum in medicine: first do no harm. Information is the most powerful force in the universe and information concerning you own health and welfare is especially important. It is also information that you cannot be objective about. It just isn’t possible. It is for this reason that no good physician treats himself or his immediate family in life or death matters as the sole or usually even the primary caregiver. In fact, speaking from experience as a person knowledgeable in medicine, I have found that wise counsel and advice I can (and do) easily give to others  is strangely absent from my own ears when I am the patient.

This lack of objectivity is more than a nuisance, it can be truly dangerous; and here I will have recourse to an actual example. The first four people to undergo DSSing have done so over the past 11 months. These were all individuals who were over 60 and who had not had consistent (or recent) “physicals.” All were counseled about the dangers of VOMIT and about the negative psychological impact of potentially finding out “something was wrong.” All four individuals had significant anomalies on their scans – two of which were life threatening and these were (or are) being medically managed.

In the other two cases, the scans revealed anomalies that might merit further medical evaluation in testing, and in both cases, the decision was wisely made not to pursue those tests. Why? That’s a complicated question, and I’ll answer it by explaining the circumstances of one of these people:

Mr. Ling is an 82 year old man who is in excellent health. He is physically active, mentally sharp and still working part time in his profession of many years.  He underwent a DSS five months ago. The findings were, overall, very good. His coronary calcium score was roughly a third lower than expected for his age, he had no signs of neoplasms, or of peripheral or central atherosclerosis, and the only abnormal cardiovascular finding was evidence of mitral valve regurgitation, which was deemed not serious and not likely to progress rapidly. However, a number of nodules were found in his right lung, along with some enlarged lymph nodes. The radiologist who reviewed the scan suggested a possible biopsy, with or without “bronchoalveolar lavage” (BAL).

While Mr. Ling is in good health, he is an 82 year old man and BAL requires sedation with propofol or a similar drug, and carries with it the risk of significant complications.  As to a CT-guided needle biopsy of the lung masses or the lymph nodes, this is this discussion that took place between Mr. Ling and the radiologist who interpreted his scan: “OK, let’s consider what this could be? I’m not sick – never felt better, so it’s not TB or something infectious? And if it’s cancer, well, what kind of treatment options would I have at my age for lung cancer with lymph node involvement?”

Those were great questions, and as it turned out, the radiologist was only playing it safe – he doesn’t want to get sued if Mr. Ling finds out he has cancer and a lawyer says to  a jury, “The doctor who imaged him said, ‘You’re in you 80s, I see this kind of thing all the time. Don’t worry about it.”  The radiologist ended by noting, “Since you are planning on following up in a year with another scan, we’ll see if anything has changed then.” And Mr. Ling is fortunate to have sufficient financial means that if he wants to pop in for a scan two months later, he can do that, too.

The problem is, most people aren’t in Mr. Ling’s position, and many will be unable to reason their way past the information that they have “masses” or “lumps” in their lungs and “enlarged lymph nodes in their chests!” That kind of worry cannot only be expensive, it can be damaging to one’s health, and corrosive to one’s quality of life. The information from DSSing should be given in the proper context, in the proper way, by the proper people, with the proper knowledge.  Absent that, it can do real harm. And if the scan does reveal a grave or untreatable medical condition, then there is all the more reason for the person to have the necessary resources at hand to help him cope and plan.

Ideally, this program would be part of a comprehensive Member Survival Program (MSP) administered by the cryonics organization (CO) and there would be a staff person whose job it would be to maintain communications with members, encourage compliance with MSP protocols (including the preferred imaging protocol) and collect and manage the resulting data stream.

Under such a scheme, upon intake (approval of cryopreservation arrangements) all members would have (at their option) completed a comprehensive health history and demographic information questionnaire, most of which would be completed as part of their membership application. The data from this questionnaire, as well as any electronic medical records the member may choose to provide, would be entered into the CO’s comprehensive member data base. The availability of this data would then allow for downstream refinement of the “one size fits all” scan protocol being proposed here, by allowing for individual risk assessment for CVD and cancer. This would flag members at elevated risk of early onset of these diseases to consider commencing scanning surveillance at an earlier age.

The Schrödinger Scan: the Black Box of The Baseline

Unless otherwise indicated, the first (baseline) scan would be done at age 45 for men and age 50 for women. In order to completely avoid any deleterious negative psychological effects, as well any potentially harmful effects from VOMIT (as discussed above), the baseline scan remains blinded and unexamined for 1 year after it is made. This done by providing written instructions to the radiologist reviewing the scan to seal the report unless there are unequivocal findings of life threatening pathology.

At the end of the year long blind period, the scan is examined and any anomalies noted. If the member chooses, a repeat scan can be done to resolve any questions or concerns raised by the baseline imaging. For example, if what appears to be a suspicious mass or nodule was found, a rescan a year later will very likely disclose if it is a neoplasm e.g., it will have grown or spread). It may seem counter intuitive to not look at data which you have paid for, experienced inconvenience to get, and which “might” save your life, but that is the necessary price that must be paid for this intervention to be used safely.

The baseline scan must be regarded as the first part of something that will not “happen,” or be completed for another year – like a bulb that has been planted to bloom in the spring, or a bond that will not mature for another 12  months. The scan itself is only a part of the process: the necessary information to safely interpret it does not appear until the required interval of time has elapsed. After all, before this protocol was proposed, no one ever got scanned and they felt just fine about it (until they dropped over in cardiac arrest).  For those of a quantum bent, consider it an extended version of Schrödinger’s famous experiment, except instead of the cat in the box, it’s a CAT scan in the box.

Scan Intervals & Exceptions

If the baseline is “negative,” showing no evidence of evolving pathological processes that merit intervention or further monitoring, then it is being proposed that the next scan take place 5 years later. Similarly, with each subsequent negative “healthy” scan, the next scan would be 5 years hence until age 81, at which point scans would be done every 2 years until cryopreservation ensues.

Figure 26: Proposed algorithm for Deanimation Screening Scan intervals and actions.

These scan intervals are arbitrary and will no doubt need to be refined over time as experience is gained. Intuitively, it seems that there should be a relationship between scan intervals and increasing age, and it is possible to configure scan intervals based on things like increasing risk of SCA or terminal illness with age. However, until some real world experience is gained, a conservative approach which minimizes costs and maximizes the opportunity for benefit, seems best. There are lots of programmers, mathematicians and similarly qualified people in cryonics and if any are interested in working with me, I am interested in generating scan interval algorithms based on the rising risk of disease and death with age (if you are interested, contact me at

Going it Alone?

If a decision is made to proceed with DSSing on an individual basis, there are a number of important things to keep in mind and to do:

* Do consider carefully the possible impact this decision will have on you and on your family. In fact, give some thought to discussing this with your spouse or significant other before moving ahead.

* Do select a good imaging center with competent and caring staff who can give you good counsel about the procedure and the results. Imaging centers that offer full body scans are often used to counseling patients: make sure the one you select is a good one. Talk with the staff about your concerns before you commit to being imaged.

* Do explain to the radiologist who will interpret your images that you are having a baseline scan done and you only want to know if there is unequivocal pathology present that requires immediate or urgent medical intervention. If you can’t get that assurance from him, ask for your results only in writing on the same disk on which your scan is written.

* Don’t look at your scan or the written report that accompanies it. If you have a reliable and willing CO, send a copy to them and ask them to send you the results a year from when they receive the media with the images and the report on it. Duplicate CDs are typically made and given upon request at no charge, or for a small fee at the time you are imaged, or when you come for your results. Bring your own media to save money!

* Do provide a copy of the disk with the scan on it to your medical surrogate and to anyone who is on you ICE (in case of emergency) contact list on your mobile phone. The reason for doing so is that, should you experience SCA during the blinded waiting period, the scan may still save you from autopsy if it documents the presence of CAD, or some other pathology that could have caused your sudden and unexpected deanimation.

* Don’t  rely on the DSS to keep you out of trouble, or to reassure that everything is OK, should you develop serious health concerns. Just because a scan shows no indication of pathology does not necessarily mean that there is none. If you have signs or symptoms that would have prompted medical attention absent scanning, act on them in the same way after scanning. Let your physician decide if the scan is significant in the context of any illness or concerns.

* Don’t forget that the scan intervals are 5 years and that is more than enough time for serious disease to develop. Indeed, the 5 year window is a long one, especially where cancer is concerned. A DSS is not a health promotion or a disease prevention program. It’s primary purpose is to let you know you are terminally ill, not to assist you in avoiding that eventuality.

* Do know that if you have atherosclerosis, “vasculopathy” and you want to monitor progression of the disease, your scan intervals will have to be much shorter than 5 years – probably 6 months to 1 year, depending upon the severity, your response to medical intervention, and so on.

Economies of Scale?

Medical imaging is a highly competitive, non-monolithic industry consisting of many operators, large and small, both independent and institutionally affiliated. Such market environments inevitably encourage the drive to survive, and thus typically offer the discriminating consumer the opportunity for real bargains. I made a number of calls to imaging centers around the US and discussed the possibility of group discounts and “scan plans” wherein members of an organization or group, even just a group of like minded individuals, could get deep discounts on scans. The majority of centers I spoke with were receptive to this idea, and several discussed specific numbers which were anywhere from 20% to 60% lower than their standard walk-in fee.

Thus, it should be possible for groups of cryonicists in a given geographical area to make arrangements with a local imaging center for scans. The same was also true when I inquired about group or institutional discounts for carotid and abdominal ultrasound screenings, with the difference being that in some cases, prices went from ~ $350 per screen to ~ $60 per screen, providing the group could be scheduled for the same time and place.

The Pre-Cryopreservation Baseline CT Scan

Figure 27: A hypothetical pre- and post-cryopreservation  CT cerebral angiogram. The post-perfusion image would be obtained by administering radiocontrast agent(s) into the perfusate immediately, or shortly before discontinuing cryoprotective perfusion, prior to deep cooling to storage temperature.

If it is at all possible, a final vital CT scan of the head (at least) should be done as close to the time of cryopreservation as possible. This scan should be done with contrast and with no concerns about clinical radiation dose limitations, since the member will be terminal. The objective of this scan is to document, in as much detail (highest resolution) possible, the morphology of the brain and its vasculature. The imaging technique used should be one that optimizes resolution of the cerebral angiogram. The reason for making these images is that they should allow for many important determinations about the quality of initial stabilization and cryoprotective perfusion and cryoprotectant distribution in the brain to be made, at leisure, during the period the patient is in storage.

If contrast agent(s) is injected into the perfusion circuit shortly, or immediately prior to the discontinuation of perfusion, it should be possible to obtain a post-vitrification angiogram, which in turn should allow for evaluation of cerebrovascular patency, as well as assist in determining the anatomical landmarks within the cryopreserved tissue. It should also be possible to add other kinds of tracers to the perfusate, which might allow for quantification of regional distribution of cryoprotectants, or of other molecular species of interest not only within the brain vasculature, but within the brain parenchyma, as well. Again, the presence of a baseline pre-cryopreservation scan will likely be of great importance in allowing accurate interpretation of post-cryopreservation images.

This scan must be a CT, as opposed to an MRI, since MRI scans are unobtainable in deep hypothermia, or in the solid state.

Radiation & Risk

When the mass media talk about the “risks” from radiation associated with CT scanning, the first question that should spring to mind is, “Risks to who?” Sensitivity to ionizing radiation varies based on the cell age and mitotic cycle, and what this means in practical terms is that the younger you are, the greater the risk radiation presents to you.  Children thus have a much higher relative risk when compared to adults due to their rapid cell division and cell differentiation rate.

Figure 28: The risk of developing cancer as a result of radiation exposure is strongly age dependent and decays dramatically as people age. By the time an individual is in his 60s, 70s or 80s, the risk of neoplastic disease from medical imaging becomes negligible. Adapted from ICRP Publication 60 (1990).

Table 1: Nominal Risk for Cancer Effects *
Exposed population Excess relative risk of cancer
(per Sv)
entire population 5.5% – 6.0%
adult only 4.1% – 4.8%
*relative risk values based on ICRP publications 103 (2007) and 60 (1990)


Table 2: Relative Radiation Level Scale
Relative Radiation Level

Effective dose range

None 0
Minimal Less than 0.1 mSv
Low 0.1 – 1.0 mSv
Medium 1.0 – 10 mSv
High 10 – 100 mSv
* Adapted from American College of Radiology Appropriateness Criteria, Radiation Dose Assessment Introduction 2008

These data also demonstrate that you cannot simply use the average relative risk shown in Table 1 to estimate the increased incidence of cancer due to radiation exposure. In order to do this analysis correctly, you need take into consideration the age of all individuals in the irradiated group. For instance, a man of 80 has a life expectancy of about 8 years, versus 33 years for a man of 45. Thus the risk to individuals over the age of 70 is, for all practical purposes, essentially nil. Table 2 illustrates what the  American College of Radiology considers minimal to high radiation doses in “absolute” terms.


Table 3: Average Effective Dose in CT
Exam Relative Radiation Level Range of values (mSv)
Head 0.9 – 4
Chest (standard) 4 – 18
Chest (high resolution,
e.g., pulmonary embolism)
13 – 40
Abdomen 3.5 – 25
Pelvis 3.3 – 10
Coronary Angiogram 5 – 32
Virtual Colonoscopy 4 – 13
Calcium Scoring 1 – 12

This is why there is an increase in the relative risk values for the “entire population”  if children are included in that evaluation. However, even a quick glance at Figure 28 (above), where the estimated lifetime risk that radiation will result in cancer (carcinogenesis) is presented relative to the person’s age, shows that children have a 10% – 15% lifetime risk from radiation exposure, while individuals over the age of 60 have minimal to no risk (due to the latency period for cancer and the person’s life expectancy).  The accepted latency period is, by the way ~ 10 years.

Table 1 shows the relative risk of developing cancer per sievert (Sv) unit of radiation exposure. Tables 3 and 4 provide some comparison benchmarks of radiation exposure both in relative terms (low, medium, high) and in terms of common, specific medical imaging procedures used in regional CT.

So, let’s put this information in the context of a cryonicist wishing to reduce his risk of unexpected deanimation. The protocol being proposed here assumes a baseline scan at age 45 for males (50 for females) which, if free of any indication of ongoing morbid processes, is to  be repeated in 5 years, at age 51. If than scan is negative, subsequent scans would be performed at intervals of 5 years (if negative) until age 81, at which time the scan interval would decrease to 2 years. If we assume a lifetime cancer risk of approximately 1 in 1000 and a total of 7 scans  until age 81, at which point any further risk from radiation exposure becomes irrelevant, we might expect to see an increase in the lifetime risk of cancer from approximate 33% to 34%.  Even if the number of scans were more than doubled to 20; one per two years during the interval between age 50 and age 80, the lifetime risk of cancer would increase at most to ~ 35%.[1] This of course, assumes that all DSSs are CT, as opposed to MRI.

Table 4: Some Exposure Risks for Comparison

Activity/Exposure mSv/year
Smoking 30 cigarettes a day 60–80
New York-Tokyo flights for airline crew 9 .0
Average radiation dose for Americans 6.0
Dose from cosmic radiation at sea level: 0.24


These risk calculations are based on the linear no-threshold (LNT) model of radiation risk.  This model assumes that the carcinogenicity of radiation is proportional to dose, even down to the lowest levels.  No one really knows how carcinogenic low-dose radiation is, because the carcinogenicity of low doses is so small that it’s practically impossible to measure. The official position of the Health Physics Society is that quantitative estimates of risk for doses below 50 mSv per year (100 mSv lifetime) cannot be made.[2]


As useful aside, if you are interested in the progress being made in medical imaging, I would highly recommend the blog Magnetic Resonance Imaging: To See and Be Amazed: The site contains many beautiful images and is a treasure trove of information on both the mainstream progress, and the esoterica of MRI


End of Part 4

[1] This also does not take into consideration the possible brief use of radioprotective nutrients taken prior to the scan.

[2] My thanks to Dr. Brian Wowk, Ph.D. from whom I stole this paragraph.
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 Appendix 1

Appendix I: Specimen Protocol for Whole Body MRI Examination to Predict Early Deanimation

Table A-1: Protocol for a whole-body MRI examination for atherosclerosis and colonic polyps. The total examination time (“in-room time ”) is approx. 60 min. SE: spin-echo sequence; TSE: turbo spin echo sequence; CA: contrast agent; FLAIR: fluid-attenuated inversion recovery sequence; HASTE: half-Fourier single-shot turbo spin-echo sequence; true FISP: true fast imaging with steady-state precession

A protocol for a comprehensive examination, not only of the vascular system, is presented as follows (Table A-1). Due to the systemic nature of atherosclerosis, a specific screening protocol has to demonstrate high accuracy in the detection of vascular changes over several regions of the body. This includes the cerebrovascular system with its extracerebral and intracerebral arteries, as well as the parenchyma supplied by these vessels. It is really rather difficult to predict cerebrovascular disease; only 26–50% of patients with a peripheral vascular occlusive disease (PVOD) have a cerebral component [79, 80]; many patients with a vascular disease are however only diagnosed once they have become symptomatic [1].

The screening protocol for atherosclerosis also includes the vascular examination of the aorta, supraaortal branches, visceral vessels, and the periphery. The possibility of imaging all these vessels in a single, brief examination has significantly changed the diagnostic procedure in centers having his facility. Finally, the heart should be examined. Even though the examination may often “only” be able to look for wall motion disorders and previous cardiac infarcts for reasons of time pressure or the lack of suitable sequences, even this provides important information, since the rate of unknown cardiac infarcts/unidentified CHD is not inconsiderable [2].

The whole-body MR angiography was performed with the aid of a system-compatible “roller-mounted table platform” (back then the newer systems with integrated whole body image acquisition were not yet available) [3]. This platform allows acquisition of 5–6 three-dimensional angiography data sets following a single administration of contrast agent using the “bolus chase” technique. Besides the possibility of now covering a field of view in excess of 180 cm without repositioning the volunteer, an advantage of this system is the use of surface coils, which, thanks to their higher signal-to-noise ratio, deliver significantly improved image quality compared to the body coil integrated into the scanner.

Heart imaging involves an axial T2-weighted “dark-blood” sequence to produce a morphological overview; this is however extended in the craniocaudal direction to include the entire lung. Images of this type are very sensitive for the detection of focal lung nodules [4].

Functional imaging with fast gradient-echo sequences (T2/T1 contrasts are most informative), as well as late enhancement sequences using inversion recovery sequences to optimize the contrast of infarctions versus healthy myocardium, are acquired in several short and long axis sections. Here, late enhancement imaging uses the intravenous contrast agent previously applied for MR angiography, and repeated administration of contrast agent is not required.

In the last part of the whole-body MRI, attention is then turned to malignomas, and MR colonography is performed. Colon carcinoma, as the second most frequent malignant cause of death after bronchial carcinoma, is the special focus of attention. A three dimensional T1-weighted gradient-echo sequence is acquired following spasmolysis and rectal enema [5].

Appendix References

1. McDaniel MD, Cronenwett JL. Basic data related to the natural history of intermittent claudication. Ann Vasc Surg 1989; 3: 273–7.

2.  Lundblad D, Eliasson M. Silent myocardial infarction in women with impaired glucose tolerance: The Northern Sweden MONICA study. Cardiovasc Diabetol 2003; 2(1): 9.

3. Goyen M, Quick HH, Debatin JF, et al. Whole body 3D MR angiography using a rolling table platform: initial clinical experience. Radiology 2002; 224: 270–7.

4. Vogt FM, Herborn CU, Hunold P, Lauenstein TC, Schroder T, Debatin JF, Barkhausen J. HASTE MRI versus chest radiography in the detection of pulmonary nodules: comparison with MDCT. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2004; 183(1): 71–8.

5. Ajaj W, Pelster G, Treichel U, Vogt FM, Debatin JF, Ruehm SG, Lauenstein TC. Dark lumen magnetic resonance colonography: comparison with conventional colonoscopy for the detection of colorectal pathology. Gut 2003; 52(12): 1738–43.

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Much Less Than Half a Chance Part 3 Wed, 04 Apr 2012 09:42:05 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> How to avoid autopsy and long ‘down-time’

(ischemia) ~85% of the time!

By Mike Darwin

Removing a Central Objection to Cryonics

In case you missed it, what I just said in that slim paragraph at the end of the preceding part of this article has profound implication because it has the potential to remove what is unarguably one of  the largest and the most rational objections that there are to cryonics. That objection is that roughly two-thirds of those who have made cryonics arrangements will not be cryopreserved under good conditions, and that half of all those signed up will be cryopreserved under very adverse conditions, such as autopsy or long (greater than 12 hours) post cardiac arrest delay. The recent advances in non-invasive medical imaging I’m about to discuss here offer the opportunity to we cryonicists to make many, if not most such losses all but unnecessary.

Figure 17: False color CT 3-D reconstruction of a patient’s intracranial arterial vascular tree. The orange-red, cheery shaped anomaly behind the right eye is a large aneurysm. The brain and other intracranial soft tissues have been digitally subtracted to facilitate a complete and unobstructed view of the patient’s arterial vasculature.

The image that you see in Figure 17 is now a perfectly pedestrian medical image that can be obtained from a garden variety CT scanner available at most diagnostic imaging centers in mid-sized cities anywhere in the world. This particular image has the brain, the soft tissue and everything digitally subtracted from it but the patient’s arterial tree and skull. The cherry shaped protrusion on the right is an aneurysm which, if were to rupture, could cost the patient his life or leave him profoundly disabled.

Figure 18: Many brain aneurysms can be treated non-surgically by passing a very thin platinum wire within the aneurysm where the wire coils up to form a yarn-like ball inside the weakened, ballooned-out area of the vessel wall. A clot subsequently forms around the coil and the vessel eventually closes off the opening to what was once the aneurysm.

Fortunately, there is a procedure  called “coiling” (Figure 18) which allows most such aneurysms to be successfully treated. Sadly, very people with brain aneurysms know that they have one until it ruptures – by which time it is almost always too late treat it effectively.

Scan Your Troubles Away?

The question logically arises, “Why not look inside everyone’s head if we have the technology to do so? Wouldn’t that allow us to identify not only the people who have aneurysms they don’t know about, but also everyone who has a tumor, or a narrowed coronary or carotid artery, or a gallstone, or anything else wrong with them that they don’t know about? In fact, why not scan their whole bodies and see if anything is amiss? Wouldn’t that allow us to nip most slowly progressing degenerative diseases in the bud?”

The answer to that question is a qualified “Yes and no.” The first and most important qualification to consider is the very substantial difference between them and us. They are going to die and, hopefully, we are not. Once you are content to die, it doesn’t really make a great difference exactly how it happens and it certainly doesn’t make any difference what happens to you afterwards. They will pay exactly nothing to avoid laying around dead for x-hours, or to avoid being autopsied. We, on the other hand, will pay something. That is a huge divide, because, as it turns out, the first and greatest barrier to such universal screening using CT and/or MRI is its adverse cost to benefit ratio.

Figure 19:  The rapid advance of computing and the high demand for ever more sophisticated medical images has driven the cost of 3-D CT and MRI scanning down to ~ $200 for a head scan $800 for a whole body scan.

While there are many CT and MRI machines, they are kept adequately busy, or perhaps just a little less busy than some of their owners would like, imaging sick and the worried well or hypochondriacal people. If the entire population, or even some modest fraction of it were to suddenly present for imaging, the system would crash. CT and MRI machines are very expensive and while the cost of scans has dropped dramatically, they are still not free. On the macro-level, governments, insurance companies and economists are constantly struggling to determine which therapeutic and diagnostic interventions offer the best return for the money invested in them.

The Problems of Bite Back and VOMIT

Surprisingly, information obtained from diagnostic tests can sometimes not only fail to yield any benefit, in which the case the money spent on the test is wasted, they can also cause harm. A recent example of this, much in the news, is the Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test used as a screening tool for prostate cancer (Figure 20). ( The problem with the PSA test as a screening tool is that to be effective in that capacity it requires a fairly long baseline, a good deal of contextual information (the patient’s race, family history, medications, and so on) and it requires good clinical judgment as well as a ‘patient’ patient.

Figure 20: It was anticipated that the PSA test, used as a screening tool for prostate cancer, would significantly reduce both the morbidity and mortality from the disease. It has so far failed to do so.

A single high PSA reading, or even several, may mean nothing. Most often it is the trend, rather than the absolute number; this is particularly true for black men.  In short, it’s a test that takes a lot of time and thought to interpret and use well and as such is probably not well suited to mass screening where a “yes” or “no” answer is sought before proceeding to costly, invasive and possibly injurious further evaluation.  Yet another problem is that even when prostate cancer is found and treated, it turns out that very few lives are saved because most of those cancers are slow growing and in men who will die of something else before the cancer kills them. Thus, the cost to benefit ratio of the PSA is being questioned, not the least of which because it causes many men to suffer and even die from treatments from which they did not benefit!

This is very much where medicine is today with respect to the “medical imaging singularity.” While it is possible to “look inside” just about everybody, the cost to benefit ratio for the health care system and for the “man on the street” would not justify it. In fact, it would be a medical catastrophe.

To understand why this is so it is necessary to understand three things. The first and most important of these is something called VOMIT, which is a very serious form of bite back associated with our new found ability to see inside patients with increasing exactitude. VOMIT stands for Victim of Medical Imaging Technology and refers to patients who suffer unnecessary interventions for abnormalities observed by imaging or other investigational technology, but which were not found during surgery or subsequent invasive diagnostic interventions. (Hayward, 2003) Here, I will go further and extend the definition of VOMIT to include any diagnostic finding which result in a diagnostic or therapeutic intervention which is not cost effective or causes harm to the patient. That is a very important caveat and tall order to fill, as we shall soon see.

The second is the relatively straightforward one of the ratio of the dollar benefit of resources expended to dollar benefit returned in years of productive life saved as a result of the intervention. Even in cases where early diagnosis saves lives, such as in breast cancer screening, the economic returns are equivocal. It is also often the case that “early” diagnosis with existing imaging technology is still not early enough to cure the disease. As a result, the patient suffers a longer, more miserable course of treatment and the healthcare system is subjected to greater expense with no return.

The third is the problem of information overload and it is somewhat related to VOMIT. The truism that a picture is worth a thousand words is probably a vast understatement. A single 3-D medical image contains a vast wealth of information – information which has heretofore been unavailable to both the clinician and his patient.  This might seem like a good thing, and in the long run it will be, but for now, and for a long while to come the details of the landscapes being revealed will, to a great extent, be terra incognito.

The Danger of TMI

When advances in microelectronics allowed for 24-hour ECG monitoring in the 1970s,  it became possible for clinicians for the first time to see the beat by beat electrical activity of their patients’ hearts for up to a day at a time, or longer. Prior to that, they were limited by the enormous quantities of paper tracings that would be required and the need to confine the patient to the clinic or laboratory. Now, with the advent of the compact and mobile “Holter monitor,” it was possible to capture the patient’s ECG data continuously under ambulatory, real-world conditions (Figure 21). Physicians were awash in a veritable sea-tide of data!

Figure 21: The Model 445 Mini-Holter Recorder which was released in 1976 allowed clinicians for the first time to “see” their patients’ ECGs under real-world conditions and for prolonged periods of time.

The problem was , they assumed, quite understandably, that they knew what it all meant. After all, doctors had been looking at patients’ ECGs for decades in their offices, in hospitals, at bedsides in homes and in physiology laboratories. They knew how to read  an ECG! So, when they discovered that some of their patients had periodic bouts or “runs” of very worrisome arrhythmias, they did the prudent and rational thing – they treated them for these arrhythmias with medications. Unfortunately, the result was the opposite of that expected; a significant increase in morbidity and mortality in these patients, because it turns out that in a subpopulation of healthy people, those arrhythmias were benign and not indicative of any health problem.  Thus, misinterpretation of the “same” information they were confident in dealing with in small chunks, presented in bulk and in a different context, was one of the unforeseen and arguably unforeseeable bite back consequences of Holter monitoring technology. (Harrison, 1978)

The Last Heart Attack?

If you assemble and then read over the Alcor case summaries of the last 40 years it is impossible not to be shocked by the seemingly high incidence of sudden and unexpected cardiac arrests. Because my data set is incomplete for Alcor, I can’t be definitive, but the number seems to be somewhat higher than for the same subpopulation of people from the general population (white, middle class, etc). Until, that is, you consider that most cryonicists are male. So, as you read accounts of cryonicists in their 40s and 50s arresting while scuba diving, while taking a nap or watching television, in part what you are seeing is selection bias at work. The point is, no one ever died of “sudden heart disease” a “sudden aneurysm” or, for that matter “a sudden cancer.” These are degenerative disease that takes years to decades to develop. While still difficult to detect in their nascent stages, their terminal lesions are usually very visible many months and sometimes for even for many years before they end lives.

Figure 22: Coronary artery calcium scoring using computed tomography and carotid intima media thickness and plaque using B-mode ultrasonography offer the prospect of detecting almost all coronary artery disease before it reaches the stage where it can cause a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.



There has been a great deal of media attention lately to an initiative called SHAPE; The Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication,  which aims to all but eliminate heart attacks by combining CT of the heart to obtain a “myocardial calcium score” (a powerful risk predictor of heart attack)(Figure 22) and carotid intima media thickness and plaque using B-mode ultrasonography as part of a three step program to eliminate heart disease. The next two steps in SHAPE’s plan are a “polypill” combination of blood pressure and anti-atherosclerosis drugs and finally, perhaps, a vaccine. A similar “Last Heart Attack in America” initiative focused on coronary scanning along with dietary interventions to reverse atherosclerosis has been the focus of a feature length documentary on CNN in which former US President Bill Clinton is prominently  featured as a spokesman and advocate. The common ground of these two initiatives is that almost no one dies of a heart attack without there being  glaring evidence present in their hearts years before the infarct occurs. It is only necessary to look for it!

There can be no question that as imaging technology evolves, and as medical acumen catches up with what is available, that such imaging will become a routine part of any checkup  for patients whose age and risk profile merit it (and eventually, if they live long enough, that means most patients). As it stands right now, if you are a middle aged man or woman with a significant risk profile for heart disease, and you have a heart attack, it’s my personal opinion you have ample grounds to sue your physician for negligence.  Right now, that’s just my opinion, so it doesn’t count for anything, but the point is that sooner or later this, or a better coronary imaging modality is going to become the standard of care and heart attacks will become a rare event – a thing of the past – a relic from a time when doctors couldn’t see inside of you.

Ultrasound Investigations

There are cheaper, simpler and completely risk free ways (in terms of radiation) to  find out whether you have atherosclerosis or not.  The most predictive of these for money is the carotid ultrasound (CUS) test.

Figure 23: The carotid ultrasound scan is  a simple, non-invasive diagnostic investigation that employs sound waves to create an image of the two large blood vessels in the neck that supply most of the blood to the brain. If there is a buildup of plaque or a thickening of the limning of these two arteries the person is at increased risk of stroke and there is a high probability that there is also systemic atherosclerosis present. If there is evidence of severe narrowing of one or both of the vessels, then it becomes urgent that medication and possibly surgery be used to correct the condition in order to avoid the likelihood of a crippling or lethal stroke.

This simple, non-invasive test takes just a few minutes and uses ultrasound waves to image the carotid arteries and the blood flowing through them (Figure 23). If there is thickening of the arterial wall, or plaque present, then it is a virtual certainty that the person has systemic atherosclerosis and warrants a more extensive workup. This test is often also “packaged”  with a quick “look-see” at the abdominal aorta also using ultrasound, to rule out the possibility of an abdominal aortic aneurysm – something that is more common in smokers once they reach middle age, and beyond.

If you shop around diligently, the cost a CUS can be as little as your transportation costs to the health fare or community center where it is being offered, often as a “loss leader” by health care providers or medical imaging companies seeking more remunerative business opportunities (if they find something amiss during the CUS).  The cost of such an evaluation can range from as little as $60, to as much as $380.

A CUS is ideal for people on a budget and for those under age 45 with no history of heart disease, cancer or other pathology or risk factors that might put them at increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Why Full Body Scans?

Figure 24: The full body CT or MRI scan is often offered as “add-on” to the complete or the “executive’s” physical. Many imaging centers offer these scans without the need of the patient’s person physician prescribing the scan using their in-house radiologists to write the order for the test.

 Put simply, there is no substitute for seeing, or to put a new twist on an old adage: a picture is worth a thousand medical tests. While the origins of all of the degenerative diseases that kill us are at the molecular level, mostly we die as a consequence of the macro-level changes they inflict on our bodies, even if the coup de gras is rooted in the action of things like adhesion molecules and inflammatory pathways; as is the case with most heart attacks. It is the large, easily “seen” bulges of aneurysms, masses of plaque or tumor that kill, and these almost always take years to develop. What this means practically is that, with a few exceptions, aside from suicide, homicide and accident, virtually no one has to die – or to deanimate without plenty of advance warming. The implications for cryonics are as obvious as they are profound.

End of Part 3


]]> 2
Much Less Than Half a Chance? Part 2 Tue, 03 Apr 2012 16:59:05 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]> How to avoid autopsy and long ‘down-time’

(ischemia) better than ~85% of the time!

By Mike Darwin

Ischemia: The Problem of “Long Down Time”

 Almost every cryonicist I’ve ever spoken with envisions his cryopreservation will occur under ideal circumstances. He will be diagnosed with  some vague and ill defined terminal illness, bravely decide to end futile treatment and then enter hospice with a team of skilled and caring cryonics personnel at his bedside. He will nap, read, watch TV, and then, near the end, nod off surrounded by loved ones as the cryonics personnel hover nearby. This may not be the most attractive picture in any absolute sense, but it is certainly as reassuring a one as it is possible to find in contemporary cryonics. And while many, or even most cryonicists may find this scenario credible, much of the rest world doesn’t.

 Figure 10:  Approximate U.S. distribution of predictable deaths by cause based on 2004 data. Note that ~57% of all deaths occur sufficiently suddenly, or under circumstances such as accidents, which preclude standby or other cryonics stabilization measures. Chart derived from data: [National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 53, Number 5 (October 2004)]. This data may be compared to the data in Figure 10 to see how closely the US national incidence of sudden and unpredictable death map that of Alcor’s experience (Figure 11).

One likely reason for the scarcity of biomedical people involved in cryonics is that their actual, day-to-day experience is at sharp odds with the scenario I’ve just laid out above.  In countless hours of both focused and casual conversations with such individuals, what emerges is a sense of incredulity about the reversibility of the damage these professional and technical people witness as a part of their duties caring for the very old, and the critically ill dying; not to mention that large fraction of people who die suddenly and without warning, end up as DOAs in the emergency department or coroner’s cases. Regardless of whether their opinions prove the valid ones, we are clearly failing to communicate to them and to the community at large, an experience of cryonics which is not so biomedically adverse.

To do that, it is first necessary to move beyond  anyone’s scenarios or suppositions and evaluate the reality of what is actually happening to the patients we cryopreserve. That turns out to be a hard thing to determine with any degree of precision, because none of the cryonics organizations maintain any kind of statistical database on their members’ cryopreservations. How many cryopatients have dementia? How many were autopsied? What is the mean ischemic time from cardiac arrest to the start of cardiopulmonary support (CPS)? How many patients have ischemic times of 2-5 minutes, 5-10 minutes, 15-30 minutes, 12 hours, 14 hours, 5 days? What is the mean age at cryopreservation? [Absence of data on this last question I find particularly amusing in a group of people supposedly preoccupied with longevity and "life extension": how long are they living, on average?]  There is currently no way to tell.

There is not even any way to determine the age, gender, or any of dozens of other potentially critically important demographic details that are, or could be vital in assuring quality cryopreservations, reducing ischemic times, or reducing known iatrogenenic events. A concern of mine for onto three decades now is that we have no way to spot adverse epidemiological events that might be associated with our unique dietary supplement or other lifestyle practices. Perhaps most incredibly, there are no written criteria, however arbitrary, to assign any degree of quality, or lack thereof, to the cryopreservation a given patient has received (let alone that a given Cryonics Organization (CO) provides, on average). This had lead to what has become known as “the last one is always the best one” to date rating system, wherein each case that is not either an existential or an iatrogenic disaster, is pronounced by the staff who carried it out as, “the best case we’ve done so far!”

We cryonicists may be in some kind of willful, data free fog about what our situation is, however, it’s a safe bet to assume that most of the rest of the world, based on their own professional and personal experiences, are not so ignorant. The first step towards a solution is to understand the scope and severity of the problem by getting reliable numbers. While that is not easy to do, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation does maintain a crude, if incomplete accounting of all the patients they have placed into cryopreservation: A cursory analysis of this yields the following breakdown. Even basic data such as cause and mode of death are missing from ~20 of the cases listed there – these have necessarily been excluded from the analysis below.

Figure 11: A major hurdle to evaluating quality in cryonics operations is the lack of any outcomes (e.g., reanimation followed by evaluation) or of any surrogate markers or scoring systems to serve as evaluation tools to determine not only the quality of cryopreservation care being given, but also the objective neurocognitive status of the patients when they enter cryopreservation. For the purposes of this analysis very crude criteria were used to assess the quality of the patient as a finished product at the end of cryopreservation. These were normothermic ischemic time between cardiac arrest and the start of CPS, catastrophic peri-arrest brain injury such as an intracranial bleed followed by prolonged cerebral no-flow before pronouncement of medico-legal death, very long warm ischemic times (> or = to 12 hours) and autopsy.

Using the criterion of “minimal ischemia” (≤15 minutes)[1], 48% of Alcor’s patients are cryopreserved under these conditions (Figure 10).  Thirty-nine percent of their patients suffer long ischemic periods of 6-12 hours or more (mostly as a result of SCA and UDA); and 13% suffer very long periods of ischemia (> or = to 24 hours) which are not currently preventable, or which conclude in autopsy prior to cryopreservation.  Put more cogently, you have less than a 50% chance of being cryopreserved (with Alcor) under conditions of minimal ischemia. While this number is discouraging, it is spectacular when compared to the Cryonics Institute, where it is somewhere in the low single digits.


Figure 12: The graph above is the same as in Figure 11, with the difference being that the losses have been expanded to include those that would be expected if the population wide incidence of end-stage, GDS-7 dementias were imposed on all the groups. The result is that percentage of patients who might reasonably be expected to have both minimal ischemia and no pre-cryopreservation GDS-7 dementias drops to just 26%.

But once again, these numbers are misleading if the criterion is cryopreservation under minimal ischemia conditions, because they do not take into account the number of patients who enter cryopreservation with dementia, or severe brain injury due to stroke, other neurovascular disease, or massive head trauma. If only dementia, at the current incidence for the general population is factored into the analysis, then the picture becomes considerably more bleak, as can be seen in Figure 10, with only 26% of  Alcor cryonics patients being preserved with relatively intact brains under reasonably good conditions.[2]

Impact of the BDDs on the Likely Survival of Personhood


Figure 13: The effect of advanced Alzheimer’s Disease on the macroscopic appearance of the brain is evident when coronally sectioned brains from an AD (R) patient and a healthy person in their mid-20s (L) are compared side by side.

Deaths from AD are typically deaths from end-stage AD, which usually implies severe global destruction of both cerebral hemispheres (Figures 13 & 14) on both a macro and microscopic level. Death due to AD is a prolonged process (~8 years from diagnosis to death), and the neurological deterioration that occurs as the disease progresses is often scored using the global deterioration scale (GDS) of primary degenerative dementias, which ranges from 1 (least) to 7 (worst) in severity. GDS scores in excess of 5 are associated with major loss of macro- and micro-scale brain structure and will be assumed here to represent serious compromises to, or the destruction of personhood.

Figure 14: The histological appearance of the brain in AD is shown in panels b and c above. In many areas of the brain there is virtually complete loss of the neuropil; the synaptic weave that interconnects neurons which can be seen in its normal state in c, the panel at the far left. The majority of the neurons and many of their supporting glial cells have died and been scavenged by macrophages and histiocyytes.  There are abundant deposits of proteinaceous plaque containing the  neurotoxin protein beta amyloid neurofibrillary tangles which are the remnants of neuronal long processes such as axons and dendrites. The extent and uniformity of the changes seen above varies from patient to patient during the course of the disease, but becomes increasingly uniform throughout both hemispheres of the cortex the longer the patient survives with a GDS score of 7 (end stage dementia).

A Deanimation Warning Device?

Figure 15: The medical imager as a deanimation prediction device?

 In his 1939 science fiction story Life-Line,” Robert Heinlein envisions a device that can predict, with considerable precision, when a person is going to die. While none of us cryonicists wants to die, most of us could certainly profit from knowing when we are going to deanimate. Better still would be also finding out how to postpone our cold dip in liquid nitrogen for a while, if it was possible to do so.

Many cryonicists will be familiar with this graph of Ray Kurzweil’s showing the impending arrival of the singularity (Figure 16).

Figure 16: Ray Kurzweil’s graph showing the exponential increase in neuro-image reconstruction which has occurred largely as a function of the exponential growth in computing capacity since 1970.

Well, if you are a cryonicist, I’m here to tell you that insofar as non/minimally-invasive medical imaging is concerned, the singularity is here.

From the earliest days of medicine physicians have desired one thing almost above all others and that is to possess the power to peer into their patients bodies and observe the goings on there. Since the discovery of x-rays by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen in 1895 (Crane, 1964) there has been steady progress towards the satisfaction of that desire. The development of contrast media, endoscopy, computerized axial tomography (CAT or CT) scanning and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning have allowed increasingly exact and impressive images of the interior of the living body to be made.

However, a number of serious limitations have, and to a great extent still do prevent the full realization of the physician’s idealized desire to see inside his patients at will. Those barriers are field, dimensionality and point of view, as well as resolution, color, contrast and the dollar cost of the imaging.

In the case of CT and MRI those barriers have been breached to such a degree that it is now possible for cryonicists to be able to determine with a very high degree of accuracy and precision both of what and when they are going to experience medico-legal death. A corollary of this is that in many cases it will be possible for them to avoid what would have otherwise been an unavoidable very long period of ischemia and quite likely a medico-legal autopsy  as well.

End of Part 2

[1] This criterion is being very generous because it assumes that all interventions that begin within ~15 min of cardiac arrest are effective at preventing further ischemic injury. This is not the case for most cryonics patients where external cardiopulmonary support is not effective at restoring adequate perfusion and gas exchange, core cooling may be delayed by several hours, and cold ischemic times may be in the range of 12 to 24 hours.

[2] Again, using the very generous criteria of assuming that all CPS is effective CPS and that no iatrogenic events compromised the quality of the cryopreservations.

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When a Singularity Bites You in the Ass Sat, 31 Mar 2012 07:56:39 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  How to avoid autopsy and long ‘down-time’

(ischemia) ~85% of the time!

By Mike Darwin



It has taken me roughly 30 years to learn that having the technological capability to achieve some marvelous end is only a small part of the battle to actually achieving it.  This is profoundly true in the world of biology and medicine because, unlike as was the case with “free speech” and “private life,” there was no Martin Luther and no Thomas Paine to definitively divorce these areas of human endeavor from the grasp of the religious moralists, the secular ethicists, and the social busybodies of the earth. The life sciences have yet to have their Martin Luther’s 95 theses nailed to the doors of the places in which this culture’s moral tyrants currently reside. The separation of Church from private life which began with Luther, and of private life from state, which began with the Magna Carta and the US Declaration of Independence, could take us only so far.

Now, we are in an interesting place and time, because never before have potentially lifesaving technologies been being generated at such a phenomenal rate. And yet, they remain outside our grasp as surely and solidly as if there were an impenetrable Prespex wall between them and us. We can look, but we can’t touch.

Beyond our physical inability – or seeming physical inability – to access those lifesaving capabilities, we also pay a heavy price in a different way. Our vision and perspective becomes warped. We literally become unable to see how we might help ourselves, because we have been conditioned to be dis-empowered. We lose the ability to think outside the box and we begin endlessly replaying the failed or marginal strategies that the existing system does allow us to pursue.

However, a close look at our predicament will reveal that that Perspex wall works mostly for the masses – for them – and not for us. If we are careful and clever, we can reach through it and extract much of the technological benefit sitting there. We can do this, but they can’t. Once we understand that, it has the potential to change our perspective on everything in terms of our chances for survival, and for our chances of living productively and in comfort, while much of the rest of world may well pursue a very different path.

That’s what this article, and the ones that follow it, are about. This article is preparatory, it’s a kind of foreplay to prepare you for the powerful penetration of the ideas that are to follow.

Of  Singularities & Hams

Figure 1: Jamón ibérico de bellota is a gourmet ham made from black Iberian pigs fed only acorns during the months prior to their slaughter.

 The first few times it happened, I hardly noticed, and I can’t remember the specifics. But when it really began to annoy me I can  remember, quite clearly, perhaps because I was already in a foul mood and the surroundings were extraordinary. We had been taken out earlier in the day to see the pigs from which the jamón ibérico de bellota is made. The vile, dusty, slobbering and altogether horrid beasts are fed nothing but acorns so that their flesh is rendered especially succulent and flavorful after elaborate smoking and aging. They were moving about with indifferent belligerence, unaware that their kin were to  be on the supper menu late that afternoon. The visit to their quarters made me thankful I did not eat land vertebrates and reminded me uncomfortably of some of my compadres at the Hacienda; the several “Mr. Bigs” who had gathered to discuss the creation of a new cryonics enterprise.

As we sat down to dinner in the courtyard of the Hacienda that evening, I was seated at a table with several middle aged cryonicists and two older ones, (sadly, including myself). It wasn’t long before I was bombarded with the question I would soon find irritating, and eventually come to loathe: “Have you had genomics testing done?”

Figure 2: The courtyard of the Hacienda where my dinner companions assailed me over my lack of diligence in having my genotype analyzed to determine my disease risks.

“And why would I have that done, I asked?” My questioner, an enthusiastic thirty-something, leaned forward a bit and explained to me how rapidly the cost of sequencing DNA base pairs was dropping, and that it was now possible to tell all kinds of things about an individual’s risk for diseases by genotypic analysis.

“It costs only  $200 US; I just had mine done.”

Others began to chime in. Since it was an international crowd, the stories were fascinating and I was content to listen. Some had discovered they had Neanderthal lineage, others had discovered less exotic, but no less unexpected genetic heritage. Finally, the conversation returned to me, the apparent elder statesman and, presumably, the example setting cryonicist at the table: why hadn’t I had my genotype evaluated, and much more importantly, why didn’t I have any plans to do so?

“Look, ” I said, “I think genomics  technology is going to be incredibly valuable. I think its most immediate value is going to be in pharmacogenomics – in determining which drugs work for which individual people and which drugs don’t work, or are actually dangerous for given individuals. A bit later, this technology will likely have real prognostic value. But not now, and not for me. I’m in my early-50s. My relatives are already sick, dying or dead of illnesses that are genetically mediated. I know what my genetic risks are. In fact, from my family history alone, I’ve known what those risks are for roughly 20 years now. Both my parents are now in their 80s, and I have a very good idea of what they are going to die of. And if they don’t die of those things, well, it will be from an accident, an infection or something not likely to be readable in the tea leaves of my genome.

 Figure 3: The Hacienda on the arid Spanish countryside outside Madrid where we took our repast and discussed singularities, past, present and future.

Interestingly, my parents have had every single disease that has also killed their parents, their aunts and their uncles: cancer, hypertension, atherosclerosis, alcoholism, type II diabetes, and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). I’m pretty sure that AD is going to claim my mother’s life, and I’d say it is probably down to atherosclerosis, and possibly cancer or emphysema, in the case of my father. With the help of modern medicine, my folks have so far dodged all of the other genetically mediated bullets that have been shot at them. So, I know my genetic risks  (and to those I’d add the risk of some peculiar autoimmune diseases in late life are present in my maternal bloodline).

But by far my biggest risks, which would not yet (to my knowledge) show up on any genotypic test are Bipolar-2 Disorder and homosexuality, both of which have a devastating impact on longevity, dramatically increasing the risk of a broad range of pathologies, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, substance abuse, other mental illness, and all cause mortality. My point is that in most cases where genes influence destiny, you’re best clue is the evolved or evolving fate of your kin – unless you are an anonymous orphan, that is.”

Still, they wouldn’t give up. The implication was that I must have genomic testing. And, truth to tell, I had, and have, no objection to it. It’s not like I am opposed on religious grounds, as if it were fortune telling. “In fact, I think it’s a nifty conversation piece and personally interesting in the bargain. It’s just that I’d have a lot higher priority uses for my $200 in terms of the dramatic medical advantages it could buy me as a cryonicist, if I had $200 to spend on such things! It would make a wonderful Newton Day gift, the kind of thing you’d like, but would never buy for yourself.”

Now that, that statement really set them off! I had thrown gasoline on a fire. Didn’t I know that the exponential decrease in the cost of DNA sequencing constituted a Singularity in biomedicine, one that was, even as were sitting there that very moment, revolutionizing medicine? “Sure.” I said, “But  there are singularities happening all the time. The thing is, most singularities in medicine unfold over a period of decades, and very few individual patients gain benefit from them on the basis of special, unique, or insider knowledge.”

But, I had lost them. They were having none of it, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if I’ve lost you as well. I was irritated and frustrated and I had already lost my temper badly earlier that day. So, I decided to bite my tongue and proceed in relative silence with the rest of the meal. But what I really wanted to say to those gentleman was that, “you wouldn’t know what to do if a medical singularity were to come right up here and bite you in the ass, because it already has!”

One of the (many) reasons the meeting had crumbled was the intransigence of one of the Mr. Bigs, who wanted cryonics with the stipulation that there be essentially no ischemic time. He had his approach to solving the problem which was, well, this meeting was some years ago, and I wonder if Mr. Big is still alive?

It was a strange situation. Mr. Big was clearly not a well man and he knew this to be the case. What I suggested was straightforward, involved nothing either exotic nor illegal and was something that I knew would work, based on the sorry experience of seeing it not work with men exactly like him. I tried to explain to Mr. Big that it was now possible to “simply” look inside of him, from top to bottom, and get a fairly accurate assessment of what his risks were for deanimating in the near future. Given his medical history, which he shared with me,  I also suggested that he have a condition treated which would, probably sooner rather than later, cost him his life, or leave him profoundly disabled. He was having none of that, either!

Instead, a few hours later, here we were seated together at dinner and Mr. Big was extolling the virtues of genomic testing as a way of avoiding premature cryopreservation-  to me.  A true, nearly unalloyed medical singularity had arrived for cryonicists, and for the previous two days they had snuffled and shuffled around each other with same indifferent belligerence of the hogs in the pen nearby who were awaiting their conversion to jamón and their journey away from the Hacienda in someone’s belly. It is at moments like this, which come with increasing frequency, that I sneak a quick look out of the corners of my eyes to see if I can catch a glimpse of some dimple or ripple in the fabric of reality that will clue me into the fact that my life has really been just a joke in very poor taste  – on me.

I’ve struggled mightily with how to effectively communicate the idea that for cryonicists, a singularity of truly incredible magnitude has arrived and that it is one which, in theory, should be available for use by us now. I’m reasonably sure I’ll fail in that task and that no matter how I might have framed the argument, or presented the evidence, the outcome will remain the same. And therein probably lies yet another powerful lesson about why Singularities, wherein everything is transformed in the blink of an eye, never really happen.

How ‘Fast’ are Most Medical Singularities?

Medicine, ironically  much more so than entertainment or warfare, is bound up with the sensitive issues of ethics and morality, which have historically complicated and often slowed the propagation of paradigm changing, or so called “singularity events” within its confines.  Vaccination, contraception, anesthesia, organ transplantation, mechanical life support, resuscitation medicine, in vitro fertilization and embryo and gamete cryopreservation have all been slowed or blocked altogether as a result of religious or ethical concerns. (1,2,3) Indeed, surf the net or turn on TV today and you will see hordes of angry people decrying vaccination, contraception, and arguing furiously over life support. Support for vaccination, ~212 years after Jenner, is even eroding in the nation that spawned it!

The idea that wound infections – sepsis – were caused by a contact-transmissible agent was definitely proved by 1848, in the form of the exhaustive statistical work documenting the effectiveness of antisepsis conducted by Semmelweis. By 1860, the theoretical grounding for the basis of that transmissible agent, germ theory, was in place. Scattered throughout Europe there were a few men who understood the new paradigm and could no doubt foresee many of its practical implications in medicine. These men must have been as frustrated as cryonicists in the middle of this last( 20th) century – men like Pasteur and Koch. If ever there was a singularity in medicine, this was it. And yet, what happened?

Figure 4: President (then General) Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America receiving his critical Magic Lantern briefing on the revolutionary, but heretofore unappreciated work of the Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Phillip Semmelweis, concerning the importance of antisepsis for the control of infections in battlefield and surgical wounds. The information proved of a vital strategic advantage in helping the Confederacy to successfully prosecute the war against Union forces. Lee is seen here in the sitting room of his home in Arlington, Virginia in this classic painting by John Elder.

Perhaps it might be more instructive if we ask ourselves what should have happened according to the Singulatarian, or even according to the “popular” model of how  powerful, beneficial ideas with virtually no downsides spread through the culture. For instance, one of the most popular “what if” questions in the realm of alternate history is, what if this or that had been different that would have altered the outcome of the United States Civil War?(4) Military historians all have their favorite “what ifs” in this regard, but mine, well mine wouldn’t be military at all, but would come down to a long, drawn out Magic Lantern (PowerPoint) presentation given to a very receptive General Robert E. Lee, on the eve of the Secession. The subject of that presentation would be the revolutionary findings of two maverick Europeans; Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis, and  Dr. Louis Pasteur, as they apply to battlefield medicine and the recovery and survival of injured troops in the conflict to come.  The Confederacy lost the war for many reasons, but in the end it came down to a lack of manpower and the disproportionately draining and depressing effect that combat related sepsis had on the South. [At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it ;-).]

Lee would listen, his military surgeons would be briefed on the Confederacy’s “secret weapon” and the tide of history would be turned. Wild and playful imaginings? Yes, but they constitute a considerably more reasonable scenario for the rapid adoption of asepsis in the US (or even half of it!) than just about any other you are likely to come up with, because the reality of what happened is almost incomprehensibly tragic.

Figure 5: In his magnificent painting entitled The Gross Clinic, Thomas Eakins graphically captures the state of surgery in the US during the decades following the US Civil War. These grotesquely unsanitary conditions had by this time to a large extent become a thing of the past in surgical theaters through much of Europe.

Figure 6: Even 14 years later, when Eakins revisits the them of the operating theater in his painting The Agnew Clinic, full adoption of asespsis and antisepsis had not occurred in the US.

Semmelweis’ work had already been published and disseminated around Europe by 1848, and by 1861, the year the American Civil War was opening, Lister was reprising Semmelweis’ discovery of antisepsis in Scotland, not with chlorine, but with carbolic acid. The sad reality was that the Americans (North and South) were so pigheaded regarding germ theory and the value of asepsis and antisepsis to medicine, that it would not be until well into the 19th century before that particular singularity fully took hold of the United States.(5)

Indeed, Lister made an “evangelical” tour of US medical schools in 1876 to little avail.(6)  Whilst the Listerian revolution was well underway in Europe by then, the situation in the US was to remain, as it was so vividly portrayed by Thomas Eakins in his magnificent oil, The Gross Clinic, which was painted the year before Lister’s missionary visit to the germ loving heathens across the pond. Fourteen years later, when Eakins painted The Agnew Clinic, we can see the beginnings of asepsis just starting to take root in the form of basic cleanliness being imposed in theatre. Clearly, antisepsis/asepsis are an example of a technological singularity in medicine, albeit one that took onto a century to fully unfold!

The Problem of Bite Back

But beyond these arguably irrational roadblocks slowing the progress of technological singularities in medicine, there are two others: the very real problems of their rational management on both the macro and the individual (patient) scale.

Figure 5: Edward Tenner’s excellent book, Why Things Bite Back explores many examples and a number of reasons why technological advances often fail to reach their expected potential, and in fact, not infrequently turn out to be self limiting, or even self defeating.

Some of the technological singularities just listed, vaccination, for instance, can have very serious practical, economic and societal consequences. Rapid and widespread introduction of vaccination into equatorial Africa by Christian missionaries, absent the concurrent introduction of agricultural and other infrastructure, resulted in a population explosion and mass famine which has not abated to this day. Oral contraception has resulted in huge demographic and social changes occurring within a single human generation; a heretofore unprecedented event in the history of our species.

While medical advances are usually perceived as an unalloyed good for the patients who will benefit from them, this is rarely, if ever the case. The discovery of x-rays opened the interior of the human body to non-invasive examination, but it also exposed the patients so viewed to initially unsuspected exposure to damaging radiation – a problem that persists in radiologic medicine through the present. Beyond the problem of unforeseen or unknown dangers, there is also the problem of technological bite back, or what Edward Tenner has called the “revenge of unintended consequences.”(7) This is a major adverse effect of technological singularities, and one which often robs them of much of their anticipated bounty – not just for societies, but for individuals as well.

As I’ve just pointed out,  new medical technologies are sharply constrained in their utility at their start due to our inexperience with their bite back potential, and with the possibility of unknown  direct adverse affects of the technology  itself. However, every great once in awhile there are peculiar exceptions, and it just so happens that cryonicists are ideally positioned to enjoy just such an exception, starting now.


1. Fasouliotis, Sozos J, Schenker, Joseph G, TI, Cryopreservation of embryos: Medical, ethical, and legal issues. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. 13:10 56-76;1996.

2. Simmons , RG, Fulton , J, Fulton, RF. The Prospective Organ Transplant Donor: Problems and Prospects of Medical Innovation. OMEGA–Journal of Death and Dying. 3:4;319-339:1972

3. Carrell. JL, The Speckled Monster: A Historical Tale of Battling the Smallpox Epidemic, Dutton, 2003, ISBN-10: 0525947361.

4. McKinlay, Kantor, If The South Had Won The Civil War, Forge Books, 2001, ISBN-10: 0312869495.

5. Murphy, FP, “Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818–1865): An Annotated Bibliography,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 20(1946), 653-707: 654f.

6. Herr, HWJ, Ignorance is bliss: the Listerian revolution and  the education of American surgeons. Urology;177:457-60,2007.

7. Tenner, EW, Why Things Bite Back: The Revenge of Unintended Consequences, Vintage, 1997, ISBN-10: 0679747567.

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Your Picture Won’t Be Hanging Here? Sun, 25 Mar 2012 03:52:35 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>  

Reception area of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Riverside, CA in April of 1987. The photos above the refreshments cart were of some of the patients in Alcor’s care at that time.

Sometimes we get defeated by technology, sometimes by cluelessness and sometimes by a most unexpected intersection of the two.

In 1981 I conceived of the idea of hanging the picture of each patient cryopreserved at Alcor on the wall of the facility. I intended the practice to start, not in the place where it might seem obvious for it to; in the patient care bay (PCB) as a memorialization of the patient for his family and friends, but rather, in the reception area and offices, where the organization’s staff dwelt on a daily basis. It was my intention that as the patients accumulated in the PCB, the photos would begin accumulating in the offices, laboratories, corridors and workspace of the Alcor staff.  The intention was to provide a not so subtle reminder that there were people in those big stainless steel tanks, people who were desperate to get out of there.


Photos of Alcor patients apparently spilling off  (?) the walls in the conference room at the Alcor Foundation’s facility in Scottsdale, AZ in April of 2011. Photo courtesy of Stan Lipin

My intention was that, over time, there would an inverse and very adverse relationship between “success” in terms of patient population growth and “failure” in terms of growth in the number of pictures on the wall. In time, I envisioned (with some glee) the framed photos multiplying like locusts, becoming ever more oppressive and occupying ever more wall space.  I foresaw that they would likely encroach into the PCB. I also thought it likely they would be downsized. But mostly, I hoped they would serve their primary function, which was that each one was to serve as a reminder to those working at Alcor: “Hey, I’m still waiting, get me out of here! I want to get back to living, just like you are, too!”

This was not an idea which I kept secret. It was frequently discussed with other Directors, with staff, even with the officers and directors of other cryonics organizations. In fact, I now believe it is a practice which has become universal at cryonics organizations around the world. Or should I say, had become universal.

Alas, I hadn’t counted on technological advance. Technological advance is almost always a “two sided blade” and is this case, the blade cut in a way I hadn’t at all foreseen. The digital photo frame makes it possible to store essentially an “infinity” of images, and display them all in the physical space occupied by just one, over short sequences of time. In so doing, it removes the clutter, and thus the annoyance of hundreds or even thousands of actual framed, photographic images. One problem solved.

And another created. The purpose of institutions is to attempt to overcome the most damaging consequences of human mortality to civilizations: the destruction of knowledge, wisdom and the values they enable. In short, the loss of memory and accumulated experience that comes with the death of individuals.

Enter the halls of any civilization’s venerable institutions and you will see the images of the individuals they treasure on their walls and of those individuals’ ideas encoded in the books lining their shelves and engraved in the form of quotes and aphorisms on their walls. Stroll their great cities, or the corridors of their museums and you will see statues and likeness of the persons they treasure and admire cast in bronze and carved in stone; all these things are feeble attempts at conserving the ideas and values of the individuals who created the intellectual capital that sustains their civilizations. It is not just that they owe these men personally (they do) it is that these civilizations survive by remembering and living by the ideas that these men created.

Unfortunately, it turns out that ideas, standing alone and absent the context of memory, are weak things. It is one thing to know that fire burns, and another thing altogether to know that fire burns having been burnt by it. It is the power of knowledge in the context of experience that is wisdom, and it is wisdom that is destroyed by death. Knowledge contained in books, or nowadays in digital form, is but a shadow compared to that contained in the mind of a man who knows the real truth of a thing in the context of personal, hard won experience. Feeling, guided by reason over time, is the most powerful tool in the universe; and death is its ultimate enemy.

The human institution (first as oral tradition) followed by the written word, were man’s initial tools against death. Poor instruments that they were, they were used to fight valiantly in an attempt to conserve the memory of what was – a story of people, places and events over time. They were, to a remarkable degree, successful. The Royal Society is almost unbelievable in this regard, with every scrap of correspondence and every minor triumph and squabble being recorded and preserved. So are many neighborhood British garden societies – many going back hundreds of years. This will be true of every successful human institution from enduring religious institutions such as St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai, to the fraternal organizations such as the Masons in the US.

Robert Ettinger (left).

With the advent of scientific medicine and Ettinger’s book in 1964, it has become scientifically credible for human beings to reach for personal biological immortality and thus, for the first time, for a credible and a definitive “end to death.” Because what death really is, is the destruction of human knowledge and wisdom, and that is always and necessarily rooted in the destruction of individual humans. Wisdom, in particular, is uniquely a property of individual persons, and so is creativity. Neither of these fantastical properties which create and drive civilization can be distilled into books, carved into stone, or molded into bronze or plastic.

To achieve immortality for individuals it will be necessary to utilize the structure of institutions. It should be abundantly evident that such institutions will necessarily have to be the most stable and durable of those which human beings have so far managed to engineer. As such, they will have to most emulate that property which human institutions were created for in the first place: the conservation of memory of persons, places and events in order to conserve values over time. This why institutions incessantly speak of things like “grand old traditions” and “institutional memory.”  Admittedly, it is a hard thing to do. And it is a perilous thing to do, because it relies upon successful prognostication of the future; that the ideas and values selected for conservation and propagation over the ages are the ones essential for success; and that the ones not essential, do not discredit those that are.

Inherent in cryonics is a terrible arrogance and optimism which attracts a kind of people who seem to possess an inborn contempt for, or incomprehension of the value of the past. This is evident in their own disregard for it. There is a shocking lack of historical conservation at both CI and Alcor. In fact, it is so shocking and all pervasive that I know that my words here will have virtually no impact on almost all who read them, because no one,[1] at either place has any idea of what I’m talking about. It is, literally, the equivalent of talking to people who have never seen books, about how shocking it is that they don’t have libraries.

Organizations that are clueless about their own (recent) historical past should, not surprisingly, also be clueless about the deeper reasons for things like pictures of patients hanging on the walls. A few years ago, I was talking with one of the (many) former Presidents of Alcor who had a question for me about  something in a member’s paperwork. This President wanted to know what “BACS” was? Now, I am old. In fact, I’m a little older than cryonics (by about 9 years). But that still only makes me 56, not 156.  I felt a little like I do when I see anyone in the US being stopped on the street and asked questions like, “Who is the Secretary of State?” or “Who was Abraham Lincoln?” and the response is an utterly clueless answer.

If you’re an average reader here, and you don’t have a clue, that’s OK, because there really is no cryonics community to get acculturated in. The answer is that the Bay Area Cryonics Society (BACS, they changed their named to the American Cryonics Society, ACS, in 1985) was the dominant cryonics organization in the world from ~1974-1984! That’s a third of all of cryonics history and it’s not that long ago.  To not know that and to be running the world’s largest cryonics organization seemed wrong to me. Not because it was wrong per se, but because it was inevitably a marker for what had to be a veritable iceberg of other missing information that was of far greater import. And even that isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw. Realizing a deficiency of knowledge or character or resources, even a spectacular one, and working hard to remedy it is the oldest heroes’ tale in the world.

Of course,  it isn’t really practical to keep putting up pictures of Alcor’s patients on its walls. At some point, I’d have expected that they would have started to spill out, rather indecently, onto the grounds. And perhaps, if the problem persisted far enough into the future, they might start turning up, well, who knows where? And continue to do so until the problem was solved.

The problem to be solved being not the clutter, nor the barrier to tasteful decorating, nor to efficient housekeeping, but rather, the problem of how to make their number start decreasing, rather than increasing. That is, decreasing by some expedient other than by gathering them up into a digital dustbin where they are granted increasingly smaller and smaller and smaller access to the living human eye, as time goes by.

How terribly (horribly) convenient.


After writing this piece it occurred to me that many might dismiss it as a case of “sour grapes;” of an “old man” failing to keep pace with the times. I don’t believe this is so and I think a good analogy is the AIDS Quilt.  Imagine if the AIDS Quilt had, because of its bulk, logistical inconvenience, and in your face anguish effect, had been replaced with a single (or several) flat screen “quilt display” monitors?

The effect would hardly have been the same. At issue here is not the technology, per se. I can imagine a number of ways to use digital technology far more pervasively, far more more subversively, and potentially even more durably than analog photographs, or stitched pieces of fabric. I’m not an analog Luddite. Indeed, I’m using digital technology in just such a”creative-subversive” way right now.

The point is that it must be used in such a manner – transformatively, transcendently and creatively – not as a band-aid convenience to assist with interior decorating to “reduce clutter” or “ease housekeeping.”

That is the clueless failure of vision, understanding and institutional memory I’m addressing here.


[1] Dr. Mike Perry is one exception that I know of.

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Bon Voyage, Fred Chamberlain Sat, 24 Mar 2012 09:31:07 +0000 chronopause Continue reading ]]>

By Mike Darwin

Me and Mei Lei, settling down after dinner and a peek at the heart of the time machine, which was then kept in a shed in back of the the Chamberlains’ home in La Crescenta, in 1973.

I was an 18 year old kid feeding quarters into a payphone in front of a Piggly Wiggly grocery store at 9 o’clock on a summer night in 1973, in Augusta, Georgia. On the other end of the line was a middle aged aeronautical engineer in La Crescenta, California, not far from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, feeding me dreams. He wasn’t telling me about the spaceship he was working on to explore the outer planets, instead, we were talking about the time machine he was building to take us to the future. You see, I was helping him with the design – my part was the bubble trap, where pressure and temperature would be measured.

The “front-end” of the “time machine” in 1973, before the bubble trap was designed, fabricated and installed.

The engineer’s name was Fred Chamberlain, and we had met the year before at his home where he, his wife Linda and I had had dinner and had looked over the various parts of the time machine project. It was then that I noticed that the device was missing a critical component – a bubble trap – a device to prevent dangerous air bubbles from entering the circulatory system of the time traveler. Fred immediately saw the importance of the oversight and I set about designing a bubble trap that would fit into the device as he had already configured it.

The glass bubble trap for the “front-end” part of  the “time machine” in use to perfuse Fred’s father in 1976.

We had been in correspondence for several years before we  met. Though I was just a boy, we shared a dream to voyage into space and conquer the stars. To do that, both of us understood we would have to become time travelers, because we were trapped in a time and place that was wholly unsuited to our ambitions and aims. We had been born too soon. We were doomed to grow old and die before our species mastered the technology to venture forth from the world of our birth and set sail into the cosmos. The only way we could see out of this tragedy, Fred, Linda and me, was to become time travelers, in fact to become a very special sort of time traveler – medical time travelers.

Linda Chamberlain in 1974.

What kid, then or now, wouldn’t kill to have a life like that? Isn’t that the stuff that dreams are made of and the juvenile SF novels are plotted around? Nobody has a life like that and everyone knows that a story like that couldn’t possibly be true. Have Spacesuit Will Travel? No doubt. Have time machine? Well, then then you’ll really go places!

The working heart of the time machine!

And yet, every word I’ve written there is true, and I’ve got the pictures to prove it; and you’ve just seen them.

Fred Chamberlain was a NASA-JPL electrical engineer working on the Mariner-Jupiter-Saturn mission in 1973, and we had that conversation and many like it. And we planned the mission Fred began yesterday and many more like it before, and to follow. The time machine we were working on was actually for a “fourth” of us, not mentioned in my story, Fred’s father, Fred, Jr., and it was indeed used to launch him on his journey on 16 July of 1976. And yes, my bubble trap was an integral and a successful component of that mission.

Fred, Jr., and Fred, III, father and son, now time travelers awaiting rescue.

Frederick Rockwell Chamberlain, III was and is of absolutely critical importance to cryonics. While most people with more than a passing acquaintance with cryonics will associate his importance with the founding of Alcor, that is in reality only a surrogate marker for his deeper importance. Fred came on the scene in cryonics in what was unarguably its darkest hour. It had degenerated into little more than a fraudulent cult in California and, everywhere in the US, it had lost all vestiges of technical and scientific rigor.

When Fred discovered this in his role as Vice President of the Cryonics Society of California (CSC) he not only left CSC and founded Alcor, he and Linda Chamberlain established, for the first time anywhere, the practice of scientific, evidence-based cryonics; cryonics based on the scientific method, on documentation of procedures, policies, cryopreservation protocols and rigorous patient case reports. He and Linda mandated not only scientific and technical accountability, but administrative, financial and legal accountability as well.

Standardized procedures, protocols, equipment and meticulous documentation were critical elements Fred and Linda Chamberlain brought to cryonics.

In doing these things, Fred and Linda attracted and mentored others. Fred’s personality and his military background brokered no compromise and his mentoring profoundly shaped me and a few others, molding us into the irascible and generally disagreeable inhuman beings we are today. At one time Fred was responsible for replenishing the tritium supply of all of the hydrogen warheads in the US nuclear arsenal. Men given that responsibility do not suffer fools gladly.

Personally, Fred taught me a great deal about engineering; not about the mathematics of it, but about engineering at the systems level, about how to look at a complex problem and tease it apart without being overwhelmed by it. He had a fantastic ability to see and solve problems at a meta-level, and he was able to communicate that to others.

Fred Chamberlain helped to build three incredible machines all of which had their origin at roughly the same place and at roughly the same time; in the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains near Pasadena, California in the early 1970s. Two of these are the Voyager spacecraft, now on their way to the stars moving  through the heliopause at 16.6 km/s  and 19.4 km/s, even as I write this. The other, the medical time machine begun when I was a boy, even before that pay phone call in Georgia, is, for the moment, located in Scottsdale, Arizona and it is moving relentlessly forward with its precious cargo of time-stopped souls one slow day at a time. Godspeed to all of you!



 You can believe me when I say that I do have some idea of your loss. Only some, I’m sure. It has been a hell of a last few weeks for me, but nothing to what you’re going through now.

 Man, oh man! I miss him already, and I haven’t laid eyes on him in years.

 I remember all those years ago in La Crescenta, we were so young, and yet we were planning for this very goddamn eventuality. We were actually planning for it, thinking about it, talking about it, working towards it. We knew it would come, and in a weird sort of way, we hoped it would come, because the alternative would be that if it didn’t come for us at all, we would be one of the truly unlucky ones that fell through the cracks, like Marce did. Still, we have his loss to bear for now, and for some unknown seasons of tomorrows yet to come.

Fred (left) cryopreserving his own father, Fred Jr., in 1976.

But remember Linda, it was just yesterday that we planned for this day now so soon arrived – a plan that has been, as we so rightly foresaw, flawlessly executed. Now, let us be patient just a “little” while longer, and work again, just a “little” bit harder, so that we can awaken tomorrow, and find that that other day that we talked about, dreamed about, planned for and worked towards has also arrived, in which we find ourselves together again – not in “paradise,” but in this world, planning for, thinking about, talking about and working towards those other dreams that we had to put on hold, simply in order to survive.

Let us look forward to those goals and dreams and many, many more still undreamt and unimagined, to which we shall again apply ourselves when the tear-blindness of our grief subsides.

 Mike Darwin

Fred Chamberlain III: First Life Cycle: 1935-2012

by Linda Chamberlain


Fred Chamberlain III recently had his brain placed into cryostasis at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale. His physical presence will be missed by many friends, biological family and chosen family until technology allows a future instantiation to be with us once again.

Among his many talents, Fred wrote inspiring poetry and loved to play the guitar and keyboard. He was one of the most intellectually creative and energetic people I’ve had the privilege to know. He just recently published BioQuagmire, which in my opinion is the best transhuman, life extension novel ever written. Fred (together with me and other authors) published a volume of life extension and transhumanist short stories in the 1980s called Life Quest.

The picture above shows Fred when he was in his twenties working in bomb disposal as a Navy diver. He was interested in ethics and was a strong supporter of Ayn Rand’s ideology. Fred became actively involved in cryonics in 1969 in order to get his father, Fred Chamberlain Jr., suspended (Alcor News, August 1976). Fred and I met and became Forever Buddies in 1970 while working on the committee to organize the second national cryonics conference, held in Los Angeles, CA.

Here we see Fred in his thirties, sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon. He was an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Southern California, where he worked on the Voyager missions to Jupiter and other fascinating projects.




That’s when I first met and fell in love with him. One of our great intellectual and emotional bonds was our interest in technological means of extending life. Fred and I incorporated the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in 1972; the minutes of those early Alcor meetings can be viewed by  those who might be interested. Many details from those early years are available on Wikipedia.



The photo to the right shows Fred in his 60’s when he and I were again active in Alcor between 1997 and 2001.




The picture on the left shows us in 2002 when we renewed our wedding vows on a beach in Cozumel with a traditional Mayan wedding with both of us wearing traditional Mayan wedding dress.

Inspired by the Mindfile tools and programs being developed by Terasem (including but not limited to and, and seeing Mindfiles as an absolutely essential part of any personal life extension plan, we moved to Melbourne, Florida in 2010 to contribute as much as possible to the Terasem Movement while we remain in biological bodies, and then continue doing so when emulated as cyberbeings. We made a presentation about Cybertwins at Terasem’s 5th Annual Colloquium on the Law of Futuristic Persons in Second Life (on Terasem Island), on December 10th, 2009.

Fred recently had his brain placed into cryostasis at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, to preserve his Connectome as additional Mindfile information. Though I will have to carry on alone for both of us for a short while before we see each other in cyberspace, Fred is still part of all of us in the Terasem Collective Consciousness and we will continue to enjoy his warm creativity again soon as well as through his poetry and many writings.

As they say on the Star Pebble, See you in the next cycle.

With all my love,

Linda Chamberlain

To view online with active links:


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