Cryonics is the process of cooling a person at the moment of legal death, in the hopes that future medical technology will have the means and skill to revive that person, overcome illness that caused that death, and overcome the damage of the cooling process. It is based on the principle that medicine is always progressing, and that based on historical evidence, it is reasonable to assume that future doctors will be able to treat illnesses that today are considered a death sentence. It is also based on the theory that our memory, personality, and sense of self is encoded in the “connectome”- the billions of neuronal connections that make up our brain. Preserve that connectome, and the person is not necessarily lost. Most cryonics advocates believe that any sufficiently advanced science that can repair the damage caused by disease and the process of cryopreservation, would be advanced enough to also be able to repair the damage caused by aging, thus creating the possibility that a person revived from a state of suspended animation would not necessarily wake to the same old, damaged body. All cryonicists know that the chances of a successful reanimation are not high however when faced with the alternatives of cremation or burial, that gamble seems worth taking. It is often said “if it doesn’t work, you’re dead anyway so what harm is there in trying?”
Cryonics has had a long history of remaining on the fringes of science. It has taken decades for mainstream medicine and science to appreciate its potential. That is starting to happen as bold advances in computing, genetic engineering, tissue regeneration and the acceptance of hypothermia as a valid medical tool have helped ignite a newfound acceptance of the possibilities that cryonics might work. It has been a slow process and in reality we have only scratched the surface.
Cryonicists in Canada form a slow-growing but stable group of individuals who have had the farsightedness to imagine that cryonics is worth their time and effort. This essay is intended to introduce the world to the Cryonics Society of Canada; how it started, where it is now and where it wants to go.
The Cryonics Society of Canada was created by Douglas Quinn in 1987. Two years prior, he became the first contracted Canadian cryonicist, and went on to be the president of the CSC (Cryonics Society of Canada), and editor of the Canadian Cryonics News1. One of the early ideas in cryonics circles which he advocated for was the concept of permafrost burial 2 as a low cost alternative to standard cryopreservation by using areas of northern Canada where the ground never thaws at a certain depth. This has become a largely forgotten concept. Doug federally incorporated the CSC and wrote its bylaws. Formal application for incorporation was made in 1989 by Doug Quinn, Scott Maynard, a biochemistry student and the secretary for the CSC, and Benjamin Best. The CSC was finally incorporated in August of 1990 after long administrative delays.
In 1990, British Columbia, our westernmost province passed a law prohibiting the marketing of cryonics, and the early 1990’s were spent by the CSC unsuccessfully attempting to overturn it. Similar legislation was considered in Alberta, but it was not passed into law.3 Even though it is fortunate that no other state or province has passed such a law, it still remains in force to this date. Technically, a resident of British Columbia can have cryonics arrangements made, but as one can imagine, a law written in such a manner makes it difficult to find funeral directors and medical professionals that are comfortable assisting these efforts.
The annual tradition of summer parties and winter dinners started in Toronto during this time, and Ben Best took over the role of president of the CSC and editor of the CCN from 1991 to 1999. He was the first cryonicist I met, in 1997 while I was still in college for nursing, and was very influential in my decision to become a cryonics activist and advocate. I consider him to be one of my oldest and dearest friends in this community.
The Canadian Cryonics News ceased publication in 2000, replaced by the Yahoo email and members forum. Guy Desrosiers, of Alberta was elected CSC president in May of 2001, in the CSC’s first online election and held that position until contact with him was lost in early 2003. I, Christine Gaspar was appointed interim president in his absence, and it was decided by vote that I would remain in that position. I bring to the group a background in emergency nursing. I have held that position ever since, with the exception of a period in 2007-2008 when I moved out of country. Patrice Levin was elected as president. She did tremendous work updating our financials during her tenure. She, along with Ben Best and Tanya Jones of Alcor led the first Western Canada standby training session during her time with us. When I returned to Canada in 2008, Patrice gave the role of president back to me, and I have served in that capacity ever since.
In the fall of 2002, the Toronto Local group- a subset of the CSC participated in our first cryopreservation of a lady that was to become a patient of the Cryonics Institute4. For most of the life of the CSC, it has been focused on education and advocacy of cryonics, in the Canadian community, often answering press requests and assisting new members with their enrollment in either CI (The Cryonics Institute) or Alcor Life Extension Foundation. One of the most important aspects of assisting with this case was that it planted the seeds for how the CSC would evolve, and which direction it should be aiming for. Through generous donations, we were able to acquire an ice bath and a Brunswick thumper that would deliver CPR hydraulically. We did also have some rudimentary medications but in hindsight, it would seem that our preparations barely scratched the surface of what would be needed if we were to evolve into an organization that supported its members more than just theoretically.
As can be said for any group whose members are volunteers, with only a single case to base ourselves on, change came slowly. It is really only in the last 2-3 years that significant effort has been taken to truly change our capability to a group that can offer standby support and a cohesive, organized team of volunteers with the capability to truly offer a valued service to a cryonicist in need.
Another element that has served us well is that the political climate and public attitude towards cryonics and transhuman ideas has begun to shift in a positive direction. The fantastic advances in science, and strong transhuman advocacy has helped make cryonics a concept that is gaining mainstream acceptance and legitimacy. This is truly the time to act if we have any hope of improving our chances for a good cryopreservation. Our most basic message is that one can take as many precautions and attempt as many procedures as possible to extend one’s life radically, but life is unpredictable, death can be as random as a car accident, and any serious attempt at transhuman radical life extension must seriously consider a “Plan B”.
One area of focus that I have been diligently trying to develop, with the assistance of our solid group members, is a formalized, clearly defined protocol. Canada is a huge country, with pockets of cryonicists who are thousands of kilometers apart. The same can be said for the rest of the world. My vision here, in collaboration with Alcor and CI is to write a standardized field manual that can be given to any group who wants it, that will outline the equipment, preparation and steps needed to initiate a good cryonics response. It needs to be simple enough that a person without a medical background can work with, and yet comprehensive enough to be worth the group’s effort. We do not have the benefit of contracting with Suspended Animation, as they are still restricted to working within the borders of the continental USA, and clearly, it would take hours, at the earliest, to mobilize a team from Arizona, or coordinate with a funeral director for CI. My goal is to create training videos, and “kits” that can be purchased or obtained by any start-up group, and then operate as a mobile support professional that can come to their aid to initiate the more complex aspects of a stabilization. My ultimate goal would be to have the capability of doing field vitrification, so that a patient can then be shipped to the provider of their choice, in the best possible condition at dry ice temperature.
One of the most significant barriers that we have recently overcome is taking custody of an Alcor meds kit, in the greater Toronto area. A long time concern we have had is that if there is a last minute case, that any delay at customs would severely impact the quality of a perfusion. Now, Alcor representatives have a kit pre-positioned here, and all they have to be concerned about is moving personnel. On the weekend of August 15-17, 2014 Aaron Drake and Dr. Max More will be coming to Toronto to provide us with orientation and training on their equipment and protocols. It is our goal to not only hold their kit, but to be able to offer immediate assistance, when possible, to their patients, in the hours before their team can arrive. Every minute can make the difference between an optimal and a sub-optimal perfusion.
Over the next few months, we will also acquire vitrification solution, and supplies from CI, in order to offer the same advantage to its Canadian members. Once we have a plan in place for the Toronto region, it is my goal to duplicate these efforts in other parts of the country that have the most pressing need, such as British Columbia for example.
This takes us to our next challenge, which is the anti-cryonics law in BC. Cryonicists in BC have been trying to have that prejudicial law overturned for many years now. This is a very important issue, not only for the people of BC, but also for cryonicists in other regions. Having an anti-cryonics law on the books creates the potential for others to be influenced by that established precedent. It is in everyone’s best interest to overturn it, lest another zealous lawmaker sees that as an opportunity to create similar rules. In consultation with a civil rights attorney, BC cryonicists have proposed that the best way to challenge the law is to create a business that would be directly affected by it and appeal on the grounds that it is discriminatory. This creates an opportunity to formally start an organization with a similar purpose that Suspended Animation Inc has in the USA, and it falls beautifully in line with the above mentioned goals of the CSC. What this venture lacks at this time is the funding to realize these goals.
If I was to be completely direct about what the CSC needs to further its mission, it would have to boil down to two elements. The first would be active participants. I want to inspire momentum, and help encourage other cryonicists to take a more active role in this service. The future is as of yet unwritten. Every effort that we make now, contributes to our future success.
The second inevitable need we have is financial support. The ideal situation, as I see it, is twofold. One aspect is the ability to earn a living in cryonics, so that my efforts and time aren’t divided between what I must do in a career which takes up valuable time, and what I could do if I could devote my fullest efforts on this mission. The second area where financial support would be hugely beneficial is to support the start-up of the BC organization, currently named Biostasis Canada, which would be born as a mobile, professional standby organization that would operate to deliver high quality cryonics field work, train and prepare local groups of cryonicists, and have the teeth to take on the anti-cryonics law in court. I have come to understand that given the great distances that often exist between cryonicists and their service provider, that what is most critical to success is timely, effective preparation, to dry ice temperature. Once that is accomplished, it matters much less how far the patient must travel to reach their intended destination.
I have always been raised to believe that being honest and transparent are worthy attributes, and I believe that these ventures would be a wonderful addition to building a cryonics infrastructure that we would all benefit from. It would serve Canadians by improving their chances at a quality cryopreservation, would serve others globally, in assisting them in creating their own networks of support, and in a way would help Americans, create a solid cryonics infrastructure outside of their borders, should their own political winds ever change in a manner that becomes hostile to their goals and freedoms.