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Elizabeth Cohen: Ted Williams controversy

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen
CNN's Elizabeth Cohen  

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- The daughter of the late baseball great Ted Williams has accused her half brother of having their father's body frozen, possibly to be able to sell DNA from it in the future.

Cryonics has long been the stuff of sci-fi flicks. But is it becoming more realistic? CNN Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen discussed the concept Tuesday with CNN's Kyra Phillips.

COHEN: Well, right now, I have to tell you that most think of this through science fiction. You see it in the movies. Many movies actually -- it's kind of amazing -- show people being frozen in the hopes that after death, they would be revived.

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Forty-nine people have decided to freeze themselves at the Alcor facility in Arizona. Yes, they've had themselves frozen. There are four people in each of those vats -- really, truly, four people in each of those vats being suspended upside down. The aim is that some day there will be a cure for whatever killed them and that they would be cured and revived.

... But how realistic is it? Well, even the company itself says that cryonics is still an unproven procedure with many uncertainties, and that's from the company that does the freezing.

We asked medical ethicist Art Caplan, and he's published on this issue many times, ... what are the chances that this would work, that you'd be able to cure the person and revive them? And he said zero percent, this is a scam.

Now, of course, Alcor, which does the freezing, says, "We think the technology is on the horizon, and we think we'll be able to revive these people."

But I have to tell you that other people I've talked to say that they think this is entirely crazy and won't work. I want to add that some of those people ... they've also had their pets frozen because just in case they come back to life, they would like Fido there with them. They want to be together.

PHILLIPS: You know, on a serious note, when someone dies, more than anything, you want a loved one to be able to come back. So I can sort of understand why they would want to attempt to do something like this. How expensive is it?

COHEN: It's expensive. It cost quite a bit of money. For example, if you want to be suspended and frozen in Alcor, you have to spend $150 to sign up, $400 a year thereafter and then $120,000 once you actually die and want to be frozen. Life insurance policies usually pay for that. In other words, you sign over your life insurance policy.

PHILLIPS: To the company.

COHEN: Right, and they take care of it for you.

PHILLIPS: All right, so besides reviving someone, someone that would want to do this -- DNA. You don't have to freeze the entire body just to get a little DNA if you want to have little Ted Williams running around, right?

COHEN: That's what I've heard people say: "Oh, well, the family wants to freeze him so that they can use his DNA, and they can make a whole bunch of Ted Williams, a whole bunch of World Series winners."

Well, if the intent is just to clone Ted Williams, they didn't need to freeze his body; they could have gotten some DNA by swabbing the inside of his cheek or saving some skin before he died. And if -- and that's a big if -- if cloning turns out to be reality, they could clone off of that. They wouldn't need to save his whole body.




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