Cryopreservation is the gamble that if you're put into deep freeze death upon death, medical technology could advance enough in the future to repair your body and awaken you. Right now, there are around 500 people who bet it will happen, paying more than $200,000 before their deaths to have their bodies—or in some cases, just their brains—filled with protective chemicals and stored in vats of liquid nitrogen at one of a few facilities around the world. But if you happened to die during the last eighteen months, the process became a lot more challenging with the cryopreservation teams unable to quickly reach their clients. From the New York Times:
Alcor, which has been in business since 1972, adopted new rules in its operating room last year that restricted the application of its medical-grade antifreeze solution to only the patient's brain, leaving everything below the neck unprotected.
In the case of the Californian man, things were even worse because he had died without completing the normal legal and financial arrangements with Alcor, so no standby team had been on hand for his death. By the time he arrived at Alcor's facility, too much time had elapsed for the team to be able to successfully circulate the protective chemicals, even to the brain.
That meant that when the patient was eventually sealed into a sleeping bag and stored in a large thermos-like aluminum vat filled with liquid nitrogen that cooled it to minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 196 Celsius), ice crystals formed between the cells of his body, poking countless holes in cell membranes.
Max More, the 57-year-old former president of Alcor, said that the damage caused by this patient's "straight freeze" could probably still be repaired by future scientists, especially if there was only limited damage to the brain, which is often removed and stored alone in what is known in the trade as a "neuro" preservation.
"I have always been signed up for a neuro myself," Mr. More said. "I don't really understand why people want to take their broken-down old body with them. In the future it'll probably be easier to start from scratch and just regenerate the body anyway."