By Faiza Qadeer, Luton, UK
Recently there was an article on Sky News which really interested me because it was about a terminally-ill 14-year girl from the UK who won a legal case shortly before her death to be cryogenically preserved in the hope that she may be brought back to life at some point in the future.
What is Cryonics?
Arctic explorers have learned that humans cannot stand extreme cold weather conditions. When our cells freeze, they produce ice crystals which break down cell walls as they develop, which would cause the body to mush once it is warmed up again.
The purpose of cryonics is to preserve human life by using cold temperatures around -196c so that a person beyond help by today’s medicine might be preserved for decades or even centuries until future medical technology can restore them back to life and full health.
The stages of cryonics are:
- To declare the persons death and contact the cryonics team immediately.
- To ensure the body is stabilized by keeping oxygenated blood circulating to minimise deterioration.
- Next the body is injected with heparin (anticoagulant) to refrain blood from clotting.
- Water is then removed from cells and replaced with human antifreeze.
- Then the body is then cooled on dry ice till the temperature reaches -130 C.
- Lastly the body is placed in a large container filled with liquid nitrogen at -196 C, which can hold up to 4 people.
Advantages of Cryonics
If the cryonic strategy works and humans can be revived after death unharmed, the possibilities will be infinite. It means that no one has to die! It could also mean that the option of dying for 100 years then being woken up to live another life would be possible. Would you not want to live another day or better still, see what the future is like?
Natural disasters seem to be happening everywhere these days; earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis all have destructive powers that are sometimes beyond comprehension.
Cryonics could preserve life so that after a disaster, the region could re-populate with plant, animal and human life.
For generations, science fiction authors have imagined that cryonics could be the answer to how humans can travel safely to stars and planets beyond our solar system and science is starting to catch up with those theories; there could be a possibility that the answer is near!
Cryonics could allow people with a deadly virus to be preserved so that the illness does not progress until a cure or treatment can be found.
People who die young can have the opportunity to continue their lives from where they left off.
Disadvantages of Cryonics
Nevertheless the costs and work to preserve people through cryonics may ultimately be pointless and the theories might not ever render into facts.
If the demand for cryonics increased, this would put pressure on resources currently available such as fossil fuels. If and when the theory of cryonics is proven we may be in a position where millions of people could be revived causing further pressure on countries to accommodate the sudden surge in population. Having more people on earth would impact the food and oil supply. How would we preserve enough resources for a larger more densely populated area?
The theory of Cryonics touches on many ethical issues. Death is a natural part of life. For Christians, Muslims and other major religions, to interfere with ‘Mother Nature’ is deemed wrong and unethical as they would be playing God. One thing that comes to mind regarding cryonic preservation is how is it possible for the scientists of the distant future to resurrect the dead without restoring their souls?
Also, what if the process takes decades, how will these ‘patients’ adapt to their future environment, most probably all their loved ones might have already passed away by that time. It would be hard to re-create your life again with no support, family and friends in a new environment.
How would people treat each other if death is not an option? If people could be preserved for an indefinite period waiting for a cure to a disease,
we would certainly have different dynamics in every choice that we make and not all of those dynamics would be positive. It violates the sense of what is certain and precious in life.
Cryonics is used on people who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine. Why only preserve those who die of incurable illness, what about those who die of other causes? How is that fair?
If cryonics works wouldn’t everyone want to have a longer life? The cryonics process slows down the metabolism of cells but it may not actually slow cell aging.
Someone may emerge from being cryogenically preserved only to rapidly age. So what’s the point if your money is going to be wasted on watching yourself grow older faster?
In my opinion, from a purely scientific perspective, your money is probably better spent, while you are still alive, on scientific research into incurable diseases in the hope that a cure is found in this day and age.
As a Muslim I feel and strongly believe that we should not be trying to play God by attempting to preserve and then bring incurably ill people back to life in the future when a cure is found. This is because I believe that there is everlasting life after death, you are here in this world for a purpose and God created you and only God will know when our return is?!
In conclusion analysing the pros and cons there appear to be many more disadvantages than advantages which suggest that cryonics should be stopped and re-thought.