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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Eastside Cryonics Institute Benefits from Resolution of Custody Battle

Normally stealthy, the Detroit-based Cryonics Institute was in the news world-wide last month. A controversy regarding the remains of a London teenager crossed international lines in a dispute that combined high-profile custody litigation with the cryopreservation debate.
The teenager, unidentified because of her age, suffered terminal cancer and expressed her wishes to be cryonically preserved after her death. She hoped that a cure would someday be discovered for her cancer. Her divorced parents were unable to agree on the process and the matter was resolved in the family division of the British High Court.
So long as the custody dispute raged-on between the teenager's parents, the child's preference regarding cryonic preservation was also a contested issue. Finally, when her cancer became terminal, the child's preference was honored by both of her parents.
Cryopreservation on this scale is not supported by the mainstream scientific community. While scientific advances have perfected the cryogenic preservation of human embryos, there is no evidence that the technology is viable for a human body.
Despite the lack of scientific basis, the Cryonics Institute has 145 human "patients" as well as 125 "pet patients". The cost of freezing starts at $28,000 for humans and $5,800 or more for pets.
Stanford University law professor and bioethicist Hank Greely is not comfortable with the sales pitch of bringing a frozen person back to life. "If you think about this as a health intervention, I think it's ethically problematic," Greely stated. He added that the ethical dilemma could be lessened by treating the process as an alternative to the traditional preservation practice of embalming.
Cryopreservation is not the only example of the pseudoscience of cryonics duping consumers to part with a chunk of cash. Beginning in the 1970s, and finally becoming popular in the US over the last several years, cryotherapy is a controversial procedure that involves standing in a chamber filled with nitrogen gas chilled to between -319 and -166 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cryotherapy reached Michigan in 2015, with a whole-body cryotherapy treatment center opening in Birmingham last year. With its proponents touting benefits that include increased athletic performance, weight loss, speeding up surgical recovery, improving skin conditions, and even treating rheumatoid arthritis, it is hard to not take a closer look at these impressive, although unsubstantiated claims.

Alas, there is no mainstream medical support for cryotherapy. A recent scholarly review of scientific studies was unable to find any data that supported whole-body cryotherapy over more traditional methods such as cold water immersion or ice packs.

The 2015 death of ChelseaAke-Salvacion increased the scrutiny of this controversial spa procedure.  Ms. Salvacion did not freeze to death, but asphyxiated due to the lack of oxygen in the air during her cryotherapy session.

There is no scientific evidence that exposing the human body to extreme sub-zero temperatures has any likelihood of preserving the body in a state of suspended animation, waiting for technology to catch up with the forward thinking Cryonics Institute members. The custody case of the UK teenager further complicates the ethical considerations of this dubious proceedure.

Likewise, there is no evidence that cryotherapy is any more effective than sitting in a bathtub full of ice water. Nevertheless, people continue to be fascinated by the mysteries of the sub-zero and they continue to be willing to pay to satisfy this fascination.

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