Jamaica Gleaner

Rais­ing the dead:

Is science on the cusp of the unimag­in­able?

- Dr Glenville Ashby Con­trib­u­tor Feed­back: glenvil­leashby@gmail.com or fol­low him on twit­ter@glenvil­leashby.

JE­SUS IS said to have raised the dead, but be­fore the Chris­tian mes­siah, there were oth­ers of di­vine birth who sup­pos­edly per­formed this in­cred­u­lous feat.

That such mir­a­cles oc­curred is a mat­ter of faith. Frankly, it can­not be proven. But what if it can? What then, if science is on the cusp of the unimag­in­able?

It may not be that un­re­al­is­tic as many might think. Just think about the gar­gan­tuan strides made in the med­i­cal field over the last cen­tury. Who would have thought that heart trans­plan­ta­tion was ever pos­si­ble? Who could have fath­omed that bionic tech­nol­ogy would be able to give sight to a pa­tient blinded by mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion?

Maybe we should hold judge­ment and sit on the fence as med­i­cal science at­tempts to achieve what was be­fore unimag­in­able.

In­trigued by this sub­ject, I sought the ex­per­tise of Dennis Kowal­ski, pres­i­dent of Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute in Michigan, and a lead­ing fig­ure in this ever-grow­ing field.

Cry­on­ics is a bold, vi­sion­ary pro­ce­dure per­formed with the hope that one day, hu­mans and an­i­mals can be re­vived with the right sci­en­tific break­through. It an­tic­i­pates the prospect of im­mor­tal­ity.

Kowal­ski spoke about the found­ing fa­ther of the move­ment, Robert Ellinger, a physi­cist who was in­flu­enced by science fic­tion of the 1950’s that showed the preser­va­tion and re­sus­ci­ta­tion of the hu­man body by a highly for­mu­lated freez­ing process.

SCI­EN­TIF­I­CALLY PROVEN

That there is va­lid­ity to this the­ory is un­de­ni­able. It is also sci­en­tif­i­cally proven that thoughts and mem­o­ries are stored or im­printed on cells and tis­sues – our DNA.

“Our brain, neu­ral path­ways, and tis­sues are like a hard drive. Ev­ery in­for­ma­tion is still there,” said Kowal­ski as he ar­gued that is why the mo­ment of death is so crit­i­cal.

“Ev­ery­thing hinges on the next 24 to 48 hours. A standby team must re­spond im­me­di­ately to en­sure that brain cells and tis­sues are pro­tected,” said Kowal­ski.

The Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute trains fu­ner­ary di­rec­tors, hos­pi­tal and home at­ten­dants in the pre­lim­i­nary pro­ce­dure of preser­va­tion. This in­volves cool­ing in an ice bath and in­ject­ing med­i­ca­tions such as Hep­arin to al­lay co­ag­u­la­tion of the blood. In­ter­est­ingly, CPR is still per­formed to oxy­genate the tis­sues.

The body is then shipped to Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute, where a surgery is un­der­taken to drain the blood through the carotid artery. It is re­placed with liq­uid ni­tro­gen and then stored in cryostats.

Ellinger be­lieved that hos­pi­tals would im­ple­ment the tech­nol­ogy but was proved wrong.

To­day, sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions adopt­ing cry­on­ics ex­ist in the United States. While Rus­sia boasts of a sin­gle or­gan­i­sa­tion of this type, there is mo­men­tum for more.

To­day, there are close to 150 bod­ies stored at the Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute, with another 50 an­i­mals also in cap­sules.

Re­mark­ably, close to 1,500 peo­ple have signed up to un­dergo the pro­ce­dure upon death. That fig­ure is ex­pected to grow as more ad­vances are made in stem-cell re­search, to a lesser ex­tent, nan­otech­nol­ogy (the ma­nip­u­la­tion of in­di­vid­ual atoms and mol­e­cules), and 3D bi­o­log­i­cal print­ing.

Kowal­ski is guard­edly op­ti­mistic. “Sci­en­tists can ex­am­ine and ex­plore what goes on in life at a molec­u­lar level, and can adapt and make ad­just­ments, although the meth­ods used are still crude.”

He con­ceded that re­gard­less of the out­come, science will ben­e­fit from this in-depth re­search. “The worst case sce­nario is that we fail, but science will be bet­ter off from this un­der­tak­ing. We also can­not deny that ef­forts to pre­serve the sanc­tity of life is noble, and this is what this en­deav­our is all about.”

UN­DAUNTED

Kowal­ski ac­knowl­edged the back­lash that ex­ists in some re­li­gious cir­cles but is un­daunted. He pro­fessed his Chris­tian val­ues and be­lieved that the mis­sion of his move­ment is con­sis­tent with bib­li­cal teach­ings.

“At first, there was a knee­jerk re­ac­tion to what we stood for, but a sec­ond look will show that we are up­hold­ing the fun­da­men­tal Chris­tian teach­ings. In fact, many years ago, trans­plan- tation of or­gans was said to be a des­e­cra­tion of the body by some. But didn’t the Bi­ble say to cure the sick, heal the leper and raise the dead? We are do­ing our duty and in­deed treat­ing the body as a tem­ple,” said Kowal­ski.

He re­jects crit­i­cism of nar­cis­sism or ma­te­ri­al­ism some­times lev­elled against his group’s mis­sion. “The soul”, he be­lieves, “can­not be mea­sured and is a neb­u­lous and un­prov­able con­cept that is faith-based”.

Ac­cord­ing to Kowal­ski, the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity is buoyed by the ad­vances in hy­pother­mic medicine, and this pro­ce­dure speaks vol­umes.

“Brain surg­eries are be­ing per­formed where clin­i­cal death is in­duced. The brain is to­tally shut down, ab­so­lutely no brain waves. The pa­tient is then brought back to life.”

He ar­gued that dur­ing that pro­ce­dure, there is sus­pen­sion of con­scious­ness; and that has not been a ver­i­fi­able case where the pa­tient can re­call any ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing that pe­riod.

Kowal­ski, who also works in the med­i­cal field, has had first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence of re­viv­ing in­di­vid­u­als who were dead us­ing CPR and de­fib­ril­la­tion. He cited nu­mer­ous cases of in­di­vid­u­als trapped un­der ice, and un­con­scious for un­be­liev­ably long pe­ri­ods of time – lit­er­ally dead – but re­vived.

Here, the low tem­per­a­ture slowed the de­gen­er­a­tion of the cells. Ba­si­cally, cry­on­ics is at­tempt­ing to ap­ply the heal­ing and pre­serv­ing func­tions of na­ture.

DIS­RE­PAIR AND TRAUMA

Ad­mit­tedly, re­viv­ing the bod­ies at Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute de­mands much more than chang­ing tem­per­a­tures. The bod­ies are in a far greater state of dis­re­pair and trauma, still, Kowal­ski and oth­ers are bank­ing on stem-cell tech­nol­ogy to re­pair age­ing tis­sues and re­store youth if ever the bod­ies stored at cry­on­ics fa­cil­i­ties are re­vived.

Stem-cell tech­nol­ogy also

The worst case sce­nario is that we fail, but science will be bet­ter off from this un­der­tak­ing.

al­lows for cloning, a con­tentious, eth­i­cal is­sue. But cloning, ac­cord­ing to Kowal­ski, is part of na­ture as ev­i­dent in iden­ti­cal twins. He stressed, though, that the thrust of cry­on­ics is dis­tinct from cloning.

No­tably, Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute dis­tin­guishes it­self by its re­fusal to of­fer the neu­ro­cryo-preser­va­tion or freez­ing only the head of a per­son legally de­clared dead.

Although it is a cheaper pro­ce­dure and en­forces the mo­tion that only the brain is the seat of all in­for­ma­tion and con­scious­ness and should be pri­ori­tised, Kowal­ski be­lieves that pre­serv­ing the en­tire body of­fers a more re­al­is­tic chance of re­vival. Fur­ther, ‘neuro’, as it is called, sen­sa­tion­alises cry­on­ics as grotesque and ridicu­lous, and could be an af­front to loved ones.

SET RECORD STRAIGHT

Kowal­ski set the record straight re­gard­ing the cost of cyro-preser­va­tion. “It is not geared for the rich as many think.” Un­like other or­gan­i­sa­tions that prove ex­or­bi­tant, Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute is markedly rea­son­able and is easily cov­ered with life in­sur­ance. Fur­ther, the ini­tial pay­ment is in­vested to en­sure, daily, long-term main­te­nance in a near full-proof en­vi­ron­ment.

But the end of any dis­cus­sion on this sub­ject, the $64,000 ques­tion re­mains: How far away is cry­on­ics from recre­at­ing and di­rect­ing life energy? Kowal­ski be­lies that within the next 50 to 200 years, we might be closer to im­mor­tal­ity.

There are so many unan­swered ques­tions. What of the per­son­al­ity, iden­tity, and yes, the soul? Where do they all fit in? And if Cry­on­ics ul­ti­mately tri­umphs, how will the res­ur­rected ad­just to a new, highly un­fa­mil­iar era? As we pon­der on these is­sues, the quest for im­mor­tal­ity is well on the way.

Dr Glenville Ashby is a so­cial critic and pres­i­dent of Global In­ter­faith Coun­cil and the au­thor of the re­cently pub­lished Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to En­light­en­ment.

 ?? CON­TRIB­UTED ?? Dennis Kowal­ski, pres­i­dent of Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute.
CON­TRIB­UTED Dennis Kowal­ski, pres­i­dent of Cry­on­ics In­sti­tute.

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