Letter: Only the gullible pay to be frozen

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The Independent Online
Sir: The article "The cryonics game" (7 February) gives a misleading impression of the scientific basis of cryonics. Frankly, there isn't one.

To summarise comments by scientists on the South African "breakthrough" as "tsk-tsk" is neither informative nor accurate, and it simply is not true that "the world is getting closer to [the cryonics] point of view".

The experiments to which the article refers emphatically have not demonstrated an effective method for the preservation of organs by deep freezing - in fact they take us no nearer to the cryonics goal than the failed experiments carried out by Audrey Smith, at the National Institute for Medical Research, in 1957. We now know much more about the reasons for their failure, but that knowledge has yet to yield a significant advance in organ preservation.

Nor should readers forget that, even if the problems of deep-freezing living organs are solved, the cryonicists will have additional problems to contend with. Extending the technique from organs to whole people; restoring the dead to life; curing the diseases or injuries that lead to their death: and all with perfect restoration of memory and personality.

It really is not surprising that so very few people have signed up for cryonic suspension.

The true situation cannot be better summarised than it was by Peter and Jean Medawar, who wrote in Aristotle to Zoos: "In our opinion, money invested to preserve human life in the deep freeze is money wasted, the sums involved being large enough to fulfil a punitive function as a self-imposed fine for gullibility and vanity."


Medical Cryobiology Unit

University of York