English 102 2nd
Death is not something celebrated; it is a commonly feared outcome of life. Usually people who are injured badly enough that they are going to die will do anything to save themselves. This can include experimental medicine or surgery that has a less than satisfactory rate of success. But, when does a final effort cross the line into an unethical practice? The recent development of cryogenics is on that line. Cryonics is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as “the practice of freezing a person who has died of a disease in hopes of restoring life at some future time when a cure for the disease has been developed” (“Cryonics”). Continued research of cryonics is ethical because of the legal obstructions and the massive potential benefits in the future. Humans are not killed in order to freeze them. Death is required to be declared before a person can be frozen. This is because freezing someone without the ability to bring them back safely (which has not been figured out yet) would be considered assisted suicide, and, according to a leading law website, assisted suicide is a felony in many states in the US (“assisted”). This means that the people who are preserved are only those who have no chance of being saved in any other way; if there was another way to save them, it would have been used before the person died. Since it does not harm people but has the potential to help many people, it is ethical to experiment with humans. But, death in a legal sense is not death in a scientific sense. This is what makes preserving people so vital. Currently, death is declared by a doctor or coroner when a set of requirements is met, but cryonics makes defining death more difficult. The requirements for legal death are varied by what caused the person to die, but death is usually declared after the heart stops and cannot be restarted. Since the body is controlled by the brain and the brain cannot function due to the lack of blood flow, the body is considered dead. Now that the person is dead, cryonics can step in. Legal death is not complete death. Long ago, the requirement for death was any stop of the heartbeat, but heart attacks are regularly treated in today’s health system. Death has become an increasingly complicated classification. True death is something different from legal death. Doctor Ralph C. Merkle, a cryobiologist, described complete death as the moment at which the brain’s structures “have been so disrupted that it is no longer possible in principle to restore them to an appropriate functional state” (Merkle). The reason why a person would be preserved is because the future will likely create a cure for whatever killed the person. At that point, the preserved person could be brought back. From a cryonics point of view, burying someone just because their brain stopped is an unethical thing to do. It would be like burying a person alive in that there is still information that could be preserved in order to treat the person in the future.
Spending money on research of cryonics is not a selfish act. While it is true that money that is spent on research and keeping people frozen could be spent on feeding the starving or housing the homeless, this could be said about any current medical research. The difference here is that being revived after being completely frozen is currently only an idea of something that could be successful in the future. Cold itself has already been proven to help people survive in near downing cases. Some mammals have what is called the diving reflex which slows the heart rate and diverts blood from extremities. According to the US Search and Rescue Task Force, “numerous children have been brought up from freezing water after 30 minutes and been successfully resuscitated” (“Cold”). This is true even though the same task force cites an expected survival time of less than fifteen minutes (“Cold”). The principles of cryonics are that cold…