The economic problems with cryogenically freezing your body

Are you looking forward to one day preserving your freshly expired body with cryoprotective fluids and waiting for revival, decades or centuries in the future? Several cryopreservation companies cater to this option, but how does one fund this process?

Cryopreservation is not just for the rich — the money necessary is often garnered through a life insurance policy. But what happens when things go wrong? Let's take a look at a cases of bodies prematurely thawed for financial reasons, the investments needed to maintain preservation, and what might be worst fate of all...undergoing cryogenic revival with no money to your name.

The economic problems with cryogenically freezing your bodyS

Early forays into the world of cryonics relied on the family or friends to pay for maintenance of the preserved individual, a financial model that's no longer in use. It came to light in 1979 that CSC Chatsworth, one of the pioneers in human cryonics, thawed several members without notification of their family, effectively stealing away any hope for future revival. Investigations later showed that CHC Chatsworth thawed 17 or their 18 patients. The single remaining patient is Dr. James Bedford, the first person to undergo cryogenic freezing. Bedford is currently preserved in Arizona at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

Due of the financial failures of CSC Chatworth, cryonics companies now require patients to pay upfront instead of relying on family members or other individuals to pay the costs of upkeep and preservation. The money for preservation, oddly enough, often comes from life insurance policies naming the cryonics company as the primary benefactor –- an easy way to generate the $80,000 to $200,0000 needed for the initial procedure and preservation expenses through monthly payments paid through the course of the patient's life.

If the cryonics candidate dies in a manner preventing the company from preserving the body (say, a terrorist attack or a gruesome car accident), the insurance money goes to the secondary beneficiaries, often family, instead of the preservation company.

Alcor requires members to fund an irrevocable patient care trust in addition to the initial expenses of cryopreservation. The money earned through investments using the patient care trust should cover the cost of maintenance and ongoing preservation expenses. Modern preservation techniques use a vitrification method that is much kinder to the body's cells, however, significant upkeep is still necessary. These costs range from $150 to $800 a year, depending on neuro or full body preservation, and cover expenses for renting space, liquid nitrogen, and other consumables.

Ideally, the balance of funds not used for upkeep and preservation will provide the individual a financial starting point once they are revived. In order to maintain a non-profit 510(c)(3) charitable status, all of the funds placed in a single account and divided equally among revived individuals. Alcor calls for a patient care trust of $25,000 for Neurocryopreservation and $110,000 for Whole Body Cryopreservation.

The economic problems with cryogenically freezing your bodyS

A cryonics trust is often set up by wealthy individuals to insure their standard of living if and they the day of revival comes. This trust is a type of dynasty trust, or an after death agreement allowing you to control your assets from a grave using a set of prepared rules. It's the same form of legal situation that allows for stipulations deeming a son or daughter reach the age of thirty before receiving their inheritance, only this trust benefits its founder.

Details on individual cryonics trusts are vague, but Simon Cowell, former American Idol host and television personality, plans for his estate to go into a cryonics trust and invested so he can resume a lifestyle resembling the one he experienced prior to death. Cowell is not alone — cryopreservation is also in store for Larry King, so the duo will at least be able to talk to each other about the good old days of the 20th and 21st Century.

Cryonics trusts could possibly be funded through a separate life insurance policy, but depending on the time of revival, laws pertaining to the execution of the funds could change a great deal. While the cryonic process itself is accessible to most individuals through use of a life insurance policy, guaranteeing a baseline quality of life after revival is not — significant assets along with individuals maintaining investments are the only hedge against a starting all over again once you are revived.

The economic problems with cryogenically freezing your bodyS

Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan paints an interesting picture of the future of cryonics. Kept on ice in perpetuity after companies failed, patients are revived by future citizens out of a feeling of guilt mixed with duty. Depression, societal neglect, and suicide plague the "Revivals" as they enter a world far removed from their own and are left to fend for themselves without skills or assets.

It is easy to imagine a series of late night commercials 100 years into the future asking for donations for the revival and care of time displaced individuals while a sad song plays in the background, much like commercials for animal welfare and famine relief foundations that play at 2 AM on cable. If you plan to undergo the cryopreservation process, make sure you set aside enough assets to provide not only for the revival of your body, but to prevent yourself from waking up destitute in a completely unknown world.

The top image is from the 1986 movie Night of the Creeps. Images from Alcor Life Extension Corporation and DC Comics. Sources linked within the article.