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After Kim Suozzi's Death, Scientists Argue Whether Freezing People is Worth It

Mar 18, 2013 12:42 PM EDT
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While freezing people at the time of their death, a process known as cryonic suspension, has been around since 1967, it's recently received a boost of media attention ever since Kim Suozzi used Reddit to raise the $70,000 she needed to freeze her head.

It's been two months since Suozzi died and scientists are still taking to the media to discuss their hope and doubt in cryobiology.

David Ettinger is the president of the Cryonics Institute and the son of a Robert Ettinger, known as the "father of cryonics." According to the Huffington Post, Ettinger sees cryonics as currently the best option for those seeking immortality.

"Some people say, well do you have faith in cryonics?" Ettinger said. "No, I just look at history and think this is a good bet. It's not certain by any means, but it's the best alternative."

The biggest problem facing cryobiology today is one that anyone who's ever tried to defrost frozen food is familiar with: defrosting things makes them mushy. More specifically, as the water in the object's cells crystallize, it expands and eventually breaks the cell's wall.

One hope then is for the development of microscopic machines that will, in effect, heal each cell as the patient defrosts. Such technology is still a long way off yet, however, which has Scientific American's Michael Shermer uncomfortable about the whole thing.

"I want to believe the cryonicists," he writes on his website. "Really I do. I gave up on religion in college, but I often slip back into my former evangelical fervor, now directed toward the wonders of science and nature. But this is precisely why I'm skeptical. It is too much like religion: it promises everything, delivers nothing (but hope) and is based almost entirely on faith in the future."

In the meantime, there are those who are left behind to consider.

Suozzi's family, for one, took time to reconcile themselves to Kim's decision to undergo cryonic suspension. According to Daily Mail, the fact that only her daughter's head would be frozen was especially discomforting to Kim's mother.

"It was explained to me that cryopreservation was more successful if it was just the head," Jane Suozzi said. "I can't tell you why, I just know what they are really after is the brain."

She then went on to explain that after a long process of reconciling the situation to her faith, Jane said she is "okay with it."

Days before she died, Kim summarized on her blog the reason she had decided to go through the expensive and controversial process of cryonic suspension, expressing a sentiment that closely aligns with that of Ettinger's regarding the subject.

"Many of you know that I'm agnostic; I don't have any clue what happens when you die, but have no reason to think that my consciousness will continue after death," she said. She then added, "The only thing that I can think to make me feel a little more at ease with my death is to secure cryopreservation on the off-chance that they figure out how to revive people in the future."

"Many of you know that I'm agnostic; I don't have any clue what happens when you die, but have no reason to think that my consciousness will continue after death," she said. She then added, "The only thing that I can think to make me feel a little more at ease with my death is to secure cryopreservation on the off-chance that they figure out how to revive people in the future."

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