An Arizona-based company claims a hypothetical future technology can provide people who pay $200,000 for it a chance to be immortal.
Alcor Life Extension Foundation is a staunch promoter of cryonics, a process that preserves human corpses in liquid nitrogen after death with a promise of restoration to full health at the time the technology is fully developed.
The science behind the process is still under extensive research and development. Even so, thousands of people have already placed their trust in the technology’s promise.
When willing participants are declared legally dead, the company preserves the body with antifreeze in the hopes of reviving the deceased patient when future medicine has caught up.
“If you think back half a century or so, if somebody stopped breathing and their heart stopped beating we would’ve checked them and said they’re dead,” Max More, Alcor CEO, told CNBC. “Our view is that when we call someone dead it’s a bit of an arbitrary line. In fact they are in need of a rescue.”
More emphasizes the importance of getting to the cooling process immediately after death.
“The critical thing is how fast we get to someone and how quickly we start the cooling process,” he said.
The company has even offered members an incentive of a $10,000 discount to legally die in Scottsdale, where the entire process can just take 35 minutes.
Preserving an entire body costs a minimum of $200,000, which More said “isn’t as much as it sounds, because most people pay with life insurance.”
For those who think the price is too steep, Alcor also offers a cheaper alternative called the “Neuro” option. Costing just $80,000, the company preserves only a patient’s head after a surgeon detaches it from the body. A new body will supposedly be grown out of the patient’s DNA once it comes time to be thawed out.
Alcor currently has 147 brains and bodies in cryopreservation in Scottsdale. The preserved members include Emmy Award-winning TV sitcom writer Dick Clair, baseball legend Ted Williams, futurist Fereidoun M. Esfandiary who is also known as FM-2030, and bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney.
Notable members who have also signed up to be frozen after death include: PayPal founder Peter Thiel, Casino owner Don Laughlin, Google Chief Engineer Ray Kurzweil, film director Charles Matthau and internet pioneer Ralph Merkle.
In terms of delivering on their promise, More told CNBC: “It would be a very bad idea not to follow through. But we’re actually very aggressive in following through — we will if necessary go to court to get possession of our patients, or file an injunction to stop an autopsy for instance, and we’ve done that many times.”
Alcor’s 147 “patients” are legally viewed by the government as merely bodies and organs donated to science under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, which means the company has no solid binding legal obligation to revive them.