Friday, December 22, 2006
Would you buy immortality?
Do you want to live forever? My gut reaction to this question has always been a resounding, "No way!" I have no desire to outlive my loved ones and to endure the aches and pains of old age on my own.
But what if you could die, then come back hundreds of years later with a new body? What if you weren't alone? What if your children, your spouse, even the family pet could come back with you? Well then...maybe I'd reconsider.
Recently, I met a group of people who believe that scenario will one day become reality. It's called cryonics. In short, it's the deep-freezing of human bodies immediately after death for preservation and possible revival in the future. Believers call themselves cryonicists and they pay big money. It costs $150,000 for the whole body and about half that for just the brain and head. There are discounts for entire families and pets.
I'm sure you've heard of cryonics. It's been spoofed in countless movies. Many people think Walt Disney (false) and baseball great Ted Williams (true) are resting in liquid nitrogen indefinitely. The hope is that one day, technology will advance to the point where cryonicists will be revived from their frozen state.
Sound unlikely? Yes, it does to me too, but spending time listening to some of the cryonicists' arguments have made me just a little less skeptical. They point to the exponential rate of technological advances. As for me, it does make me consider all the medical procedures that were simply mind-boggling just decades ago. Dialysis allows people with kidney disease to live longer, healthier lives. Operating on fetuses still in the womb is commonplace. Brain surgery can be done without incision.
Cryonicists see the transport of chilled organs and tissue for transplants as a step in the right direction. Doctors at Harvard Medical School are working on a process similar to suspended animation. They can take severely injured pigs, the size of humans, and slow down their body's functions, just long enough to mend their traumatic injuries. When the pigs are revived they show no sign of cognitive loss.
To be clear, most doctors we spoke to said it's unthinkable that cryonics will ever become a reality. After all, we're still talking about bringing someone back from death.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta will examine the medical possibilities of cryonics in a report airing on CNN tonight on Paula Zahn Now at 8pm Eastern and this weekend. You'll also meet some of the people who are planning for their future...their very distant future...that is.
Let us know what you think? How much would you pay to buy immortality?
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
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