Last night at the Phoenix meetup at Regina Pancake's home, I talked to an Alcor insider who told me how a long-time Alcor member I knew had suffered from a mild stroke recently. His son moved him to another state (away from Arizona), and has interfered with Alcor's efforts to contact him.
After seeing how, because of my father's impairment, my sister has taken charge of his affairs with her power of attorney, I understand how this situation can happen to cryonicists with uncooperative relatives who lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. This sounds like another potentially lost cryonics patient thanks to family values, despite the well meaning talk about turning cryonics into an intergenerational project.
Mark Plus: Last night at the Phoenix meetup at Regina Pancake's home, I talked to an Alcor insider who told me how a long-time Alcor member I knew had suffered from a mild stroke recently. His son moved him to another state (away from Arizona), and has interfered with Alcor's efforts to contact him.
This Alcor member probably has some money in the bank and his offspring is determined to get it any way he can. Such offspring should be immediately disinherited and also a court order of protection against him issued, if it is possible in those circumstances.
This is a real danger facing many members of cryo providers. In January David Pizer proposed on Cryonet a solution for such problem. It is reprinted below:
Date: Fri, 30 Jan 2009 16:33:35 -0800 (PST)
From: david pizer <email@example.com>
Subject: Protection for cryonicists
The Venturists Directors have been considering allowing the Society for
Venturism to hold power of attorney from cryoncists (for those cryonicists who
want to give it) to act on their behalf should they ever get in a similar
situation as some past cryonicists have found themselves in - mainly where
non-cryoncists or anti-cryoncists have legal control of their body.
If the idea becomes reality a cryonicst could give the Venturists power of
attorney in sickness or at legal death to make decisions for them. So if, for
instance, you ended up in a mental state where you could not assert your desire
to be frozen and there were others who legally had the right to make decisions
for you that were not going to get you frozen, we could take control and try to
see that your cryonics wishes were honored.
In some cases we might not be able to prevail. In some cases the relatives or
others might be able to outspend us, or other problems could come up. Giving
the Venturists power of attorney to try to help you is not a guarantee that we
can prevail. But it might make the difference in some cases.
You probably could give a similar power of attorney to the organization you are
paying to do your suspension but I think opponents would have a harder time
discrediting the Venturists (trying to get you frozen) for the main reason that
the Society for Venturism does not receive any money when you get suspended and
your suspension organization does.
People who do not understand why we want to be frozen and/or who are generally
not supportive of cryonics (maybe the judge or jury in your case) historically
have suspected the main reason cryonics companies exist is to make money - even
thought we have given evidence to them many times over that is not the main
reason, and not even a valid reason.
What we are looking for now are ideas on how the cryonics public would like to
see this set up, or if they even like the idea at all.
Should be offer this service. Should we ask that when someone gives us power of
attorney to try to enforce their cryonics wishes that we ask for a donation,
(if they can afford it), to go into a general fund to build up a cash reserve to
be available if we need to hire an attorney to help out?
Also, there are many types of power of attorney forms. One that I think we
might need may be called "durable" in that it is still in effect after the giver
dies. I don't know much about this.
Also, we might also accept power of attorney to make medical decisions so that
relatives could not keep a patient on life support while their brain is
decomposing. After all, the main organ we want to preserve is the brain.
Anyhow please feel free to send your comments to Cryonet, that is where we will
monitor the discussion and reply. You can copy this and post it in other forums
if you like but ask others to reply in Cryonet.
temporary order of protection for cryos and friendly judges
May 16 2009, 2:02 PM
usually this sort of temporary order is done in certain types of courts, depending on the state. Family law courts, perhaps.
futhermore, it is quite likely that a cryonicist could petition a court in whatever state he is in at the moment for a temporary protective order concerning power of atty.
If so, a cryo could select a particular location to get that order from a judge who has been proven to be friendly to cryonics. A judge in scottsdale might be a good choice, as Alcor has been given a lot of publicity there.
The cryo, if he thinks that his family might take away his right of self determination, might relocate to where a friendly judge is located and then petition the court for a protective order and assignment of POA to the Venturists.
If family members are trusted by the "deceased" to handle these arrangements correctly, then yes they do have the duty to fulfill that trust. Otherwise whomever the "deceased" trusted in their stead has said obligation. In cryonics, where the "deceased" is hoping to remain in a condition that may actually turn out to be alive, there is sometimes a need (while you still have the chance) to find an emotionally unbiased party who will make sure their actual wishes are respected.
Some cryonicists have families that can be trusted not to kill them dead the moment current science is unable to handle their condition. Some do not. It is a real tragedy when trusted family members betray the trust of someone who is utterly helpless to defend themselves. The utter moral depravity of such an action is difficult to explain, but sadly happens all the time. Ted Williams got lucky, and may survive... Some are not so fortunate.
from what I am hearing, doctors will NOT respect the wishes of the dead as expressed in a perfectly legal living will, and INSTEAD WILL go with the desires of the next of kin even if contrary to the living will.
I guess that depends which version of his wishes you adhere too...
"It is a real tragedy when trusted family members betray the trust of someone who is utterly helpless to defend themselves. The utter moral depravity of such an action is difficult to explain, but sadly happens all the time."
Yes, whichever way the betrayal goes. In the long run, it probably doesn't matter one iota.
I'm not so sure it cuts both ways like you are saying.
Handling the dead with respect is something we do for psychological reasons, not moral ones. There is no moral obligation to be nice to a corpse, as it doesn't have any inalienable human rights. It doesn't have feelings anymore, and never will again, since it has lost the information that would give it feelings.
Caring how a corpse is treated is about like caring how the statue of Abraham Lincoln is treated. Sure we care, but we don't expect the statue to care.
What I was saying is that treating a brain that might possibly have feelings again (i.e. a vitrified brain), as if it were already dead meat, is a terrible crime against a living human being. It makes it worse, of course, when the brain has previously declared an intention of being preserved, and someone intentionally interferes with this... It is rather like pulling the plug on someone who specifically requested to remain alive for as long as possible.
But morally speaking, there's a good case to be made that all brains should be vitrified, regardless of their stated desires about post-death funerals and such.
All this legal stuff about how to handle dead people shouldn't really apply to vitrified brains -- it just does because the justice system is lazy and vitrified brains look dead.
The wishes of the dead were the wishes of the living when they were still alive. The will is a recorded testament to those desires.
I was thinking this morning, from a scientific perspective, which do you think will happen first?
a) A human body revived from cryonics;
b) Receiving radio transmissions from distant galaxies;
c) The discovery of Bigfoot.
d) Christ's return to Earth.
All these ideas have their followers and adamant believers. You're trying to justify your position with your belief system, which, like any of the others has yet to be proven. Until there is a revival result its like arguing whether God exists or not. Well, maybe, maybe not... I can't say he does, but there are certainly plenty of people that would argue with me.
None in my mind has a higher likelihood than another, but I respect people's right to believe in whatever they choose.
As far as legalities, it seems if someone signs up and pays their money, the body belongs to the cryonics facility as a medical donation. Yes, if that's something someone wants, they should get it. And vice versa.
The shannon entropy for a stored brain tissue is not unity. There is information there.
If we assume that on death the shannon entropy pertaining to identity is 0 and that in a vaporized individual it would be 1, then a vitrified brain would fall somewhere between the two, probably closer to 0. Which is good.
There is no way to prove that cryopreservation will work. But not preserving someone is certain not to work. And given a choice between an uncertain means of saving a life and no means of saving a life, it is our moral obligation to pick the means that might work.
In order to morally justify not attempting to preserve someone, you would need to be absolutely certain that cryopreservation is impossible. Simply having a low probability of success is not enough... You know they are dead if you don't do it.
Honoring the recorded wishes of the dead is a nice, socially positive sentiment, but honestly it pales in comparison with the obligation to respect the inalienable rights of the living. Whatever they wished before they died, they aren't wishing it now because they're dead. We just wish they were, since that would mean they weren't dead... Just as many religious people believe they aren't.
Anyway, you are free to reject my position that it is possible that a person whose brain is well-preserved by today's standards can be at some point revived. If so, you can continue to think of cryo patients as oddly preserved corpses. Just remember that it won't make it any more or less true.
Luke Parrish: Anyway, you are free to reject my position that it is possible that a person whose brain is well-preserved by today's standards can be at some point revived
Well-preserved, that is the key word. I think it would mean: 1. Preservation withing few minutes after hearth stops (there are precious very few of those), 2. Preservation without brain damage caused by excessive pressure during stabilization (unknown how many of those are there, if any), and 3. Cryopreservation without extensive micro-fractures (there are none of those). So it could be said that very few, or perhaps even none, of the current residents of dewars are well-preserved.
That is a very good question. If nobody is sufficiently well-preserved at present, that means that the particular individuals in question are indeed deceased, and thus the remains are corpses with no moral rights. However, even if this is true, it does not rule out future advances in stabilization technology or technique that would lead to the existence of such well-preserved brains in the near future.
Thus my point would still stand -- we have a moral duty to any sufficiently well-preserved brains that greatly surpasses the duty we have to unpreserved remains (i.e. regular corpses). The latter are simply organic rubbish, which we for social reasons prefer to treat with dignity in rememberance of the deceased individual. The former would be in fact non-deceased individuals with a right to as much life-saving intervention as we can provide.
With currently cryopreserved brains, we simply do not know whether the individual has survived or not. In that case, the most conservative moral approach is to err on the side of caution, to protect any such individuals as may exist. It would be a tragedy to intentionally thaw a cryopreserved individual on the theory that their preservation was insufficient, if one was wrong about it -- even if this was motivated by supposed respect for the dead.
We do not have the technology to properly assess the difficulty of recovering information lost in certain ways, or what exact amount of information loss would constitute a loss of the individual. Stroke victims can lose significant amounts of brain tissue without being completely lost as individuals, so even a fairly large amount of tissue loss may not properly be the end of someone's existence.
The particular sources of damage you mention are not necessarily permanent losses of the relavent information. Ischemia primarily kills brain tissue after bloodflow is restored, and hypothermia has been shown to reverse some of its effects. Unfortunately, one of the effects of ischemia can be to prevent reperfusion of some areas -- so vitrificant fluid does not reach the area, and straight freezing occurs. We don't know how irreversible it is, but that could be a lot of damage.
When the outside of the brain cools first, and the inside cools later, this creates pressure that can and does cause cracking. This is a problem with low or uneven thermal conduction, which may be solvable with more advanced techniques. However, it should be noticed that the cracks are not causing a loss of information, rather they are breaking the information into pieces. By the time we are able to reanimate well-vitrified brains, we may already be able to glue the cracked areas back together using moderately advanced nanotech or biotech.
I don't think lack of imagination is a good excuse for failing to consider the rights of well-preserved cryonics patients, whether or not one feels they actually exist in the present time. Such individuals likely exist now, and if not will almost certainly exist in the future -- so it is important to establish the fact that they have moral rights.
I'm glad to see TWrelated has a sense of humor about this topic!
I doubt wills come into play, very often, at the time of legal death. Usually whatever "next of kin" is readily available has the power to make any and all decisions, even going against the expressed personal wishes of an individual. I've seen it, time and time again, in my hospital experience. Sadly, it seems, once a person is no longer capable of expressing his/her wishes, a close relative imposes theirs!
The Worst Enemy of Cryopatients, a/k/a Their Relatives
May 18 2009, 3:54 PM
Melody: I doubt wills come into play, very often, at the time of legal death. Usually whatever "next of kin" is readily available has the power to make any and all decisions, even going against the expressed personal wishes of an individual.
I have seen many times when children stole parents assets while the parents were still alive. I guess it is not so unusual for children to prevent parents cryopreservation if they can profit by doing so, and they even think that the cryo provider is just a charlatan who is taking what should be their money. The cryo providers want to make sure that they get pay for the cryopreservation and anything else, like asset protection of their customers is irrelevant. Someone correct me if it is not so, but my understanding is that Alcor worked on a solution to this, but Saul Kent put a quick end to it.
In Arizona I believe a state law specifically gives power to relatives to determine the disposition of remains (burial, cremation, burial at sea, or presumably cryopreservation) if the deceased person has not left clear wishes. There is a hierarchy of relatives listed, each higher level having the power to countermand the lower level(s). However, if the deceased person did make his own wishes clear, this carries the greatest weight.
I believe some other states don't have legislation that controls the procedure so formally.
The current version of the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act has a similar provision. If the donor recorded his/her wishes previously (ideally using a standard state form), these wishes--either positive or negative regarding organ donation--are legally binding upon medical personnel and everyone else. Interestingly, the personnel are held harmless from liability if they follow the wishes of the deceased. If the donor did not make his wishes clear, then once again there is a hierarchy of people who are empowered to make the decision on his behalf.
I believe this information is all available online.
The most powerful tool to prove the wishes of a person is a video in which she/he states that cryonics is a rational choice, has been made after a great deal of thought, has not been encouraged by any third party, and is a very strong desire that has continued over a period of time. The person should add that he/she is mentally competent and is fully aware that revival may not occur, since the procedure is highly speculative. The person should make copies of this video (very easy to do now, with MP4 file format and thumb drives or CD-R) for safe keeping with relatives and with a cryonics organization.
When we were running CryoCare, I used one of our annual general meetings as an opportunity to make multiple videos of this type. The concept seems to have been largely forgotten, which is unfortunate.
The information and suggestions Charles has relayed are very valuable, and I agree everyone should do the best they can to make sure their own wishes are carried out. Unfortunately, there are a few major stumbling blocks.
As I recall, it was next to impossible to get most of the SA members to take steps to make sure their wishes would be carried out. Most of them didn't have wills, or Power of Attorney documents. I frequently called and/or emailed them, with information about the steps they needed to take. Most of them thanked me for the information I sent, assured me they knew how important the matter was...and then did nothing. I assume this is true for Alcor and CI clients, and the general population, as well.
The problem with a person's own wishes for the "disposition of remains" Charles mentions is that, in many cases, no one is going to attempt to determine what the patient's wishes were, until many hours after their legal death. As for hierarchy of relatives, how many people will have their closest relative standing next to them, at the time of their legal death? Let's say John Doe's next of kin is Son A, who respects his wishes for cryopreservation, is on vacation in a remote area. Now, let's say Son B, who opposes cryopreservation, is at his father's side when he has a heart attack and dies on the way to the hospital. Is Son B, or anyone at the hospital, going to attempt to track down Son A, before sending John Doe to the morgue? I doubt it.
Videos may be the ultimate tool in the disposition of one's assets, but I question their value in cryonics. I doubt anyone is likely to watch a video, (or read a will), for many hours, after legal death. I'm not trying to be argumentative, I'm just saying a thumb-drive, or a CD, left with a relative and a cryonics organization, isn't going to be of much use, unless the cooperative relative, or the cryonics organization, is standing at the bedside, at the time of legal death. The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which Charles mentions, and an iron-clad Power of Attorney held by a constant companion seem to be the best bet for having one's wishes for cryopreservation carried out.
I should have made it clear that a video expressing one's desire for cryopreservation is important to protect against a legal challenge after death. Remember, a cryonics organization does not and cannot "own" its patients; it merely has custody.
Assuming a video is admitted by a judge as evidence, it provides the best possible proof that a person chose to be cryopreserved and made the choice rationally and without temptation or coercion (assuming the person states this).
In the Ted Williams case, if a video had existed it would have been more difficult to challenge than a signature on an oil-stained piece of paper.
I have no formal legal training and am speaking from memory, but as I recall, body parts and bodies may not have any monetary value in the United States, and ownership in the usual sense is not possible. One can take custody of a donee but the custody can be challenged, seemingly in a similar (although not identical) way to a challenge regarding custody of a child. If the challenge is contested, a court has to decide the outcome. Thus, in some very rare instances, I believe Alcor has felt compelled to surrender a patient, which of course was what one family member wanted in the TW case.