Have you ever wished you could see into the future? Not just 5 or 10 years ahead, but 100 or 200 years ahead? It may now be possible. The field of cryogenics – the study of what happens to things at really low temperatures – has spawned the process of cryonics. Cryonics is the process used to store human bodies at really low temperatures in the hope of reviving them at a date in the future.
There are a few myths that need to be dispelled regarding this process. First, the procedure can only be performed on a person once they are declared legally dead. You’re probably thinking “If a person is dead, how can they be revived?” First, you have to define death. Legal death occurs when the heart has stopped beating, but, cryonics scientists contend that some cellular brain function still remains. Total death, they say, is the point at which all brain function ceases. Once a person has been declared legally dead, the cryonics team moves in to maintain circulation, minimize cell function, and prevent blood from clotting in order to facilitate transport to a cryonics facility.
Myth number two. Your body will be frozen. The cryonics procedure, called vitrification, does not actually “freeze” a person. The water in our cells would expand upon freezing and would destroy our cells. So, the first step is to replace water with a type of “human antifreeze” solution called a cryoprotectant. The body is then cooled to a temperature of -130 C, placed in a container and immersed in a liquid nitrogen bath to maintain a temperature of -196 C.
Myth number three. Only the very rich can afford to be cryopreserved. Costs for this procedure range from $28,000 up to $150,000. Many cryonicists fund this fee by purchasing an insurance policy that is payable upon death to the cryonics facility of their choice.
The main drawback to cryonic preservation, of course, is that you have to be willing to bet on medical science advancing to the point where a patient can be revived. This isn’t as far off as we may believe. Some cryobiologists are predicting that by using nanotechnology (the use of microscopic machines to manipulate single atoms), it will be possible to revive a preserved person as early as 2040!
Of course, if you plan on being around that far in the future, you also need to make sure you have assets available for when you are revived. This is where the Personal Revival Trust and its associated planning becomes relevant. A Personal Revival Trust is an irrevocable trust with an income beneficiary, generally a cryonics organization, during the period while a person is cryopreserved and then available to the trustmaker when the revival process is complete.
For information regarding estate planning and cryonics, or to schedule an appointment, call our office at (407) 977-8080.