From Cryonics, January 1983

Why We Are Cryonicists

by Mike Darwin

We are cryonicists because we choose to be optimistic rather than pessimistic about the future. We believe that human knowledge and medical technology will continue to expand and that even people who are considered "dead" today will someday be able to be restored to life, health, and youth.

We understand that the state of "death" is nothing more than a physician admitting he is unable to restore a person to life; that this decision as to when a person dies will vary from doctor to doctor, place to place and most important from time to time. A person suffering a cardiac arrest in a hospital cafeteria will have a radically different prognosis than the same person with the same condition on the crowded streets of Bombay: in a hospital he might be resuscitated and live, but on the streets of Bombay a physician would pronounce him dead. We understand that as progress in our understanding of physiology and medicine is made and translated into improved medical technology we are able to recover more and more people from so-called "death." In short, we believe that today's physicians are likely mistaken when they apply the label "dead" to cryonics patients. We believe that a more accurate statement of fact is that cryonics patients are neither dead nor alive, but in a third state: that of uncertain waiting. We understand this will be a hard idea to grasp and an idea that will provoke the great anxiety of "not knowing and uncertainty." But we believe firmly that the chance at continued life this represents is worth this cost.

We believe an explosion of biological technology is coming that will transform the world even more radically than the changes brought by the explosion of engineering and physical technology in this century. We believe that mankind will soon have control over living systems, allowing us to end all human illness, reverse and control the aging process, and solve the thorny ecological problems which seem so overwhelming to us today. We believe that this coming control over living systems will also allow us to fabricate new organisms for use in food and industrial production as well as for the repair and regeneration of patients currently waiting in cryonic suspension.

We are cryonicists because we know what we are doing is right. We don't know if what we are doing will work but we know that it is the right action to take. When someone discovers a person laying on the ground with an apparent cardiac arrest, he does not enter into a debate with himself or other bystanders about whether or not his application of cardiopulmonary resuscitation will work for this particular individual, whether the victim will suffer brain damage, has another terminal illness, would have wanted CPR to be applied, or whether or not doctors will be able to treat the cause of his heart arrest successfully. Rather, the rescuer immediately applies CPR in order to stabilize the victim's condition and prevent any further deterioration from occurring until the victim can reach trained medical personnel who can make those decisions. It is not the rescuer's place to second guess medical capability.

As cryonicists we feel that it is not our place to second guess future medical capabilities either. We know that the right thing for us to do is to move immediately to prevent the patient's condition from deteriorating further and to continue to exert maximum effort to get that patient to a time when it may be possible to treat him effectively. So, just as the CPR rescuer seeks to stabilize the heart attack victim and move him over distance to medical assistance, the cryonics rescuer seeks to stabilize his patient and move him through time to an era when effective medical help will be available.

Cryonics is not about "freezing dead people" since we do not agree with the contemporary medical definition of death which is based solely on the physician's immediate ability to restore function — an ability that will change as medical technology evolves. Today, no one considers a patient in cardiac arrest who is recieving CPR in an attempt to restore life as dead. Simlarly, we know that cryonics patients retain the structure and information content which constitute the basis of their personal identity and humanity to allow for restoration of life. We steadfastly refuse to concede they are dead (irreversibly lost to life) because we believe medicine will advance to a point where it can repair damaged brain structure and restore them to life, health and youth.

We are cryonicists because we love being alive and do not want our lives to ever end. We know that the most important thing we have and the only thing that really matters are our lives and health. Where we differ from others is in our unwillingness to admit defeat because contemporary medical and social authority tells us that we should. We believe in fighting even when the odds against us may be very high and the certainty of success non-existent. We believe we should fight because some chance to hold on to our precious lives, even a minuscule chance, is better than no chance at all and certain death.

We are cryonicists because we refuse to let go of those we love and lose them forever. We are through closing black cuts in the earth and living with deeper ones in our hearts. We know that taking action to save the people we cherish, even if there is little chance that it will succeed, is infinitely superior to helpless inaction and smothering our grief and loss with worthless tears and dying flowers. We believe that action is better than inaction and that the psychological advantage to the dying person and his loved ones is reason enough to undertake cryonic suspension. We believe that it is better to fight than to surrender and we will not give up solely on the basis of someone else admitting their impotence.

Finally, we are cryonicists because we know that each of us is responsible for our own lives and survival; that if we do not take action to defend our lives, no one else will. Being cryonicists puts us back in control of our lives: no longer are we under an absolute, inescapable death sentence. We are taking action to fight death and achieve indefinite extension of our lives. We are not helpless cattle being led to slaughter by an indifferent universe. This realization transforms us and lets us take joy in our lives because it frees us from the draining certainty that we are going to grow weak and disappear forever. We know that we have a chance because we are cryonicists and this awareness motivates us to be productive and to strive to maximize this chance that cryonics represents. If you would like learn more about cryonics, please write or call us.