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Waking the Dead

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“People who die, in cryonics parlance, are said to have been ‘de-animated.'” Just one fascinating fact from Richard Sandomir’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times exploring the murky world of human cryonics. More:

Alcor and the Cryonics Institute store bodies in canisters filled with liquid nitrogen at minus 320 degrees and charge fees of $28,000 to $120,000 for their services.” No, insurance doesn’t cover it, nor does Medicare.

Suspended Animation prepares bodies for preservation for Alcor and the Cryonics Institute, charging $19,000 to $35,000 for its services, depending on time and labor.”

“While some have nicknamed cryonics the immortality business, David L. Shumaker, the president of Suspended Animation, said, ‘Death is a process, not an event. We want to slow, or stop, the process of death.'”

This is a most interesting view. I find it profound. Is our life simply a slow decline to death, a slow death, as it were? I need to sleep on this.

“The existence of the Cryonics Institute, where 50 bodies are preserved, was not even known to Michigan’s Department of Consumer and Industry Services until the publicity over Ted Williams. The belated knowledge that the Cryonics Institute had been in business for nearly 30 years [!] prompted a yearlong investigation.”

“There is a squeamishness about cryonics that has kept it from attracting an audience broader than the estimated 1,100 people who have signed up to be frozen after their deaths and the approximately 115 bodies and heads now in subzero storage in Michigan and Arizona.”

“‘We walk in lock step with our ancestors,’ Mr. Shumaker said. ‘What your parents and grandparents did is normal to you. If three generations of your people were frozen, people would say ‘Cremation? Are you crazy?'” He’s got a point!

“In choosing Boca Raton [for its headquarters], Suspended Animation might appear to be motivated by a desire to pursue profits in a city where nearly one-fifth of the population is over the age of 65. But the company says that it settled here because it was the only city in South Florida that would allow the company to perform research on animals.”

“Until it begins its research, the company provides emergency stand-by teams that await the death of a terminally ill member of Alcor or the Cryonics Institute. Ted Williams was one of the first to receive its service. ‘In days gone by, hospitals wouldn’t even let us in,’ Mr. Shumaker said. ‘Now we sit in I.C.U.’s.'” Comforting, that. NOT!

I am reminded of a sci-fi novel I read a few years ago, originally published in the 80’s before these companies began: the frozen bodies of the characters were called “corpsicles.” What a great word! Too blithe, I suppose, for these companies.

For those, like me, who think Jennifer Connelly is the most compelling actress alive, her film “Waking the Dead”, is not to be missed. Made from Scott Spencer’s superb novel. Love at its most extreme: passion as obsession.

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About bookofjoe

  • jadester

    didn’t walt disney have his head frozen, or something? i believe that was where the whole frozen head joke in futurama stemmed from (and, indeed, the one-off in the episode of the simpsons where the owner of the company that makes itchy and scratchy temporarily is put out of business and has to look after his dad’s frozen head)

  • I confess. I’m a web-designer and I know this, but I’ve been doing tons of forms at work lately. In the email response form you can’t use double-quotes, so I’ve gotten in the habit of not doing them at all. Work is destroying my good design habits and replacing them with evil ones that make me appear doofey.

    I need a vacation.

  • Tom, you have to surround the web address with double-quotes. That’s actually an HTML requirement, but it’s really enforced here. 😉

  • did i just stumble into an episode of futurama? is nixon’s head coming for us?

    the ted williams thing made me ill. he was the epitome of someone who wanted to die and call it a day.

  • Isn’t straight HTML working for you, Tom? Here

  • Argh! I love how the BC comments will randomly allow then not allow links to other sites. Cut and paste so my comment makes sense: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/963389/posts

  • It’s probably best to find a company that won’t drop your head and crack it several times. There’s nothing more disappointing than waking up after decades of “not being dead” with a broken head.