A father has signed his whole family up to be frozen when they die with the hope they can brought back to life in the future – at a cost of $140,000 (£104,800).
Dennis Kowalski, his wife Maria and their three sons – Jacob, 19, Danny, 17, and James, 16 – all from Wisconsin, US, want to be preserved in a vat of liquid nitrogen when they pass away.
Dennis, a paramedic and the president of Cryonics Institute, believes the process could give them all a ‘second chance at life’.
Cryonics preserves the human body at low temperatures after death in the hope it can be revived in the future.
The process begins immediately after a person is declared legally dead and the body is cooled in an ice vat.
They are then transported to the company headquarters of the Cryonics Institute in Michigan where the person’s blood is replaced with antifreeze solution and kept in a vapourised cooling chamber.
For $28,000 (£20,960) the person is then transferred to a special storage container where they are kept with the hope they can be woken up in the future.
The company already has 160 human bodies and around 100 pets frozen.
Cryonics preserves the human body at low temperatures after death in the hope it can be revived in the future
Dennis Kowalski and wife Maria say they want to be preserved when they die
The couple’s three sons – pictured left to right, Jacob, 19, Danny, 17, James, 16 – have also signed up
The member owned, non-profit company hit the headlines last year when a 14-year-old British schoolgirl won the right to be frozen.
The cancer victim, known only as JS, went to court last year in her final days to allow her body to be preserved at the facility in the hope she could resume life in the future after a leap forward in medical understanding.
The process is unproven to work and extremely controversial. Many experts say there is no hope of being brought back to life.
Bodies are preserved in a vat of liquid nitrogen at cool temperatures when they pass away
A model body demonstrates how a human body would be frozen at the facility
Dennis, a paramedic and the president of Cryonics Institute, believes the process could give them all a ‘second chance at life’
But Dennis, who lives in Wisconsin, believes those who take part have ‘little to lose and virtually everything to gain’.
The 49-year-old said: ‘I heard about the process when I was a teenager. I thought it sounded really interesting.
‘Many years later I signed up. That was 20 years ago now. Now my wife and three teenage sons are also all signed up.
‘Of course my sons are young so not thinking about it too much. But things happen in life and you never know.
‘Now I am on the board of directors. We all understand that nothing is guaranteed.
‘But the future is unknown. Things that were impossible in the past are possible now.
‘We think of it as donating our bodies to science. If it works then we have helped science and advanced life.’
Essentially, believers in cryonics say they are buying time until technology catches up and is able to fully repair and restore the human body.
‘We have decided to take action in the present for the chance at a renewed life in the future,’ said Dennis. ‘The process cost $28,000 –which is the same as it cost back in 1976.
‘We have 160 people frozen, around 100 pets and 1000 tissue samples. We have 2,000 people signed up with us for when they die – people all over the world.
‘Most people use their life insurance. We think of it as ambulance ride to the hospital of the future. I believe that that hospital will exist.
Cryonics Institute in Michigan where 160 human bodies and around 100 pets are frozen
The freezing process must begin as soon as the patient dies in order to prevent brain damage
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Cryogenics is the art of freezing bodies by preserving a dead body with liquid nitrogen.
Currently, it can only legally happen when someone has just been declared dead.
The freezing process must begin as soon as the patient dies in order to prevent brain damage, with facilities currently only available in Russia and the US.
In the procedure, the body is cooled in an ice bath to gradually reduce its temperature bit by bit.
Experts then drain the blood and replace it with an anti freeze fluid to stop harmful ice crystals forming in the body.
Cryonics Institute said it hopes that one day the process can be carried out before death on terminally ill patients, under carefully controlled conditions.
But it says this is not critical to the success of cryonics because at the legal death stage – the point where the doctor gives up – most of a person’s tissues are still alive.
The firm says dogs and monkeys have had their blood replaced with protective solution and cooled to below 0ºC, with subsequent rewarming and revival.
‘There are hundreds of companies that are already doing research that may help with that – stem cell research, cloning, computer chips.
‘We haven’t really faced any real legal obstacles. As long as we make sure we operate ethically and morally which we do.
‘It is donating your body to science. We always obey the law of the land we are in.
‘People do say they may not like it – but normally they don’t full understand it.
‘I understand that it isn’t for everyone. But people may have said organ transplants were playing God. Now that is accepted and seen as a good thing.’
How did cryonics begin?
Robert Ettinger, known as The Father of Cryonics, introduced the concept of cryonics in 1962 with the publication of his book, The Prospect of Immortality.
The process of cryopreservation involves cooling a legally dead person to liquid nitrogen temperature where all physical decay essentially stops – with the goal of preserving tissues, organs and especially the brain with its associated memories and personality as perfectly as possible.
A person held in this state is termed a ‘cryopreserved patient,’ because those who believe in the process do not consider the legal definition of ‘death’ as a permanently irreversible state.