Otis Robinson 24th November 2017
On a chilly November evening, your teeth chatter and arms shake. You grab a hot water bottle, wrap up in a onesie and retreat to bed, bracing yourself for a long night’s battle with the cold. You think, this winter will be the death of me. But freezing slumbers are no longer the enemy – in fact, scientists have been utilising below-freezing temperatures to lengthen human lives for decades, and now even death may no longer mean the end of life.
Cryopreservation is the process of freezing a corpse (or just the brain) to allow revival of the person in the future. Using temperatures below -130°C and lacing the veins and innards of the patient with “human anti-freeze”, scientists can halt the deterioration of the body, putting a pause on true death and allowing more time for scientific developments in health to cure whatever ailment caused the patient’s demise. While the procedure exists within the realms of speculative science, there were reportedly four cryonic institutes in the world as of 2016, with three in the US and one in Russia.
Despite the current impossibility of thawing out its patients, cryonics’ scientific history spans decades (with its first patient, Dr James Bedford, frozen in 1967), and the hope it instils in its users is undeniable. Cancer patients or Alzheimer’s sufferers are able to find peace in the possibility of being brought back to life in decades, or even centuries, to news of a cure.
As its popularity increases and the research continues, it is no surprise that Britons too are hoping to secure their immortality in wintry suspension.
Marji Klima of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona, US, says there are currently 32 British citizens signed up to be frozen (and that’s just at their facility), with three currently in stasis (referred to as “patients”).
So, who are these preserved Britons, and where are they sleeping this winter?
1. SYLVIA SINCLAIR (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 117)
Sylvia Ann Sinclair, from Peacehaven in East Sussex, was 66 years old when she died of cancer in 2013. Her body was cryogenically frozen and is currently held at the Cryonics Institute in Oak Park, Michigan.
Her husband was Alan Sinclair, a former electrical engineer who founded the UK’s first cryonic group in 1989. He is currently making payments to the institute to secure his place beside his wife after spending 46 years together.
Speaking to The Mirror, the widower said: “Obviously I am not looking forward to going but I will go and be back with Sylvia, both of us suspended until the technology can bring us back.
“No one wants to die, but waking up in another life with the woman you love would be absolutely lovely.”
2. JS (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 143)
The 14-year-old teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was dying of a rare form of cancer when she took part in a legal battle to ensure her body would undergo the procedure.
Known as JS in a letter to the court, the teen wrote: “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done. I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to. I think [this] gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time.
“I want to live and live longer. This is my wish.”
The girl’s mother was eventually given full control over how her daughter’s body would be disposed, to the objections of her estranged father. The girl hailed the judge as a hero.
Her body is currently held at the Cryonics Institute at a temperature of -196°C along with Sylvia Sinclair.
Before her death, the girl had high hopes: “I’m dying, but I’m going to come back again in 200 years.”
3. IVY EYRE (A.K.A. ALCOR PATIENT A-2404)
Ivy Gladys Eyre, a 92-year-old retired cashier and resident of Plumstead, South East London, passed away in October 2008 following health scares that began months earlier.
Eyre’s son had contacted Alcor following a minor heart attack she suffered in August 2008 and expressed his wish to add her to a cryopreservation plan, of which he was also a member.
However, in the following months where legal formalities were being addressed (but not completed), Eyre died. This caused complications regarding her preservation, and inevitably there was “a significant amount of time involved between legal death and bringing [Eyre] to Alcor”.
Despite the many months, the 92-year-old spent in a preservation purgatory, the intermission ended in February 2009, when she was finally frozen and settled into the facility.
4. CORMAC SEACHOY (A.K.A. ALCOR PATIENT 142)
Cormac Seachoy, 27, died of colon cancer in 2015.
Living in Bristol, where he studied and then worked at the city’s university, meant he was an ocean away from any cryopreservation institutions. Though he had planned to move to the US and enter an assisted living facility to be closer to them, he “put off leaving his family”.
Inevitably, when Seachoy died, preparations had to be made to get his body across to the US to the facility of his choice. Cryonics UK assisted the temporary preservation of his body while arrangements were made to transport him to Scottsdale, Arizona, the home of Alcor.
Cormac became the facility’s 142nd patient (joining Ivy Eyre) on 30 December 2015, after being pronounced dead four days previously.
5. ANONYMOUS MALE (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 90)
The middle-aged father, husband and management consultant died in 2008 following treatment for cancer.
Despite being healthy until earlier that same year, health issues arose that were later realised to be caused by a cancerous tumour. Twelve hours into radiation therapy, he suffered a cardiac arrest, and later passed away holding the hand of his wife.
She said: “The light suddenly went out.”
Hope for the widow and the man’s future was restored, despite problems associated with the cost of cryopreservation, when his family arranged his preservation at the Cryonics Institute.
6 . ANONYMOUS MALE (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 109)
The 72-year-old man from Scotland, died following an apparent heart attack in February 2012.
Though it is required that cooling and preservation begins as soon as possible for the patients, the Brit had passed away at around 2am and was not discovered until later in the morning.
However, the man was placed under controlled cooling upon arrival at the Cryonics Institute and is now in a long-term chamber.
7. ANONYMOUS MALE (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 125)
After an anonymous 69-year-old male died in a hospital in England (following several weeks of hospitalisation from health complications), his temporary preservation was handled by Cryonics UK.
The man was kept in dry ice until the legal requirements for transportation were met.
As of September 2014, he has been kept in cryopreservation at the Cryonics Institute.
8. ANONYMOUS MALE (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 134)
An anonymous 63-year-old man from England, who passed away in 2015 from cancer, is currently being cryopreserved at the Cryonics Institute.
The patient had pre-planned arrangements for his preservation and transportation as he had been a member of the programme at his time of death.
9. ANONYMOUS MALE (A.K.A. CRYONICS PATIENT 148)
Another anonymous male from England, this time an 82-year-old man, became the Cryonics Institute’s 148th patient after his death in 2017.
Similarly to the Cormac Seachoy case, Cryonics UK assisted in the man’s travel to the US, providing “standby, cooling and transportation” for the body to prevent deterioration during the 15-day delay between his death and arrival at the institute.
After finally being frozen at liquid nitrogen temperature, the octogenarian was placed in a cryostat – essentially a freezer – for “long-term storage”.
Otis Robinson 24th November 2017