Saturday, November 14, 2009

Suspended Animation's Perfusionists

When I was an employee of Suspended Animation, I fully intended to be the perfusionist on call, 48 weeks of the year. I'm not sure how that would have worked out, because at some point, as I recall, Platt, whom Kent insisted on having as a "Team Leader," said he wouldn't do cases with me. (Fancy that...Kent found a science fiction writer preferable to a qualified perfusionist, as a cryonics care provider.) Prior to that time, when I suggested we contract with a Florida-based perfusion group, to cover for my four vacation weeks, I was scoffed at, and told "real medical professionals won't work with us." I was also told it was "too expensive," so imagine my surprise, when SA contracted with the very same group for 52 weeks a year, and leased equipment from them. Recently, in a Cold Filter post, Steve Harris remarked on how expensive this is. Call me crazy, but if it means getting rid of a RUP, or two, to have qualified perfusionists at cryonics cases, that is what should be done.

I've been acquainted with a person who helps run that perfusion group, for quite a few years. When I found out they contracted with SA, I did contact him. I told him I was happy cryonics patients would have qualified perfusionists, but I also told him I thought he should be aware of what he might be getting into. Specifically, I said his perfusionists should be prepared to go to cases without anyone capable of performing a femoral cannulation, which is exactly what did happen. I also said they should either investigate the legalities of carrying certain drugs across state lines, or be cautious of carrying any of SA's luggage. I don't believe SA has done their homework, in regard to who may carry and/or administer certain medications they are using. I am not the only one to express this concern, Mr. Ettinger has also mentioned it, and I wouldn't want any of my fellow perfusionists to end up in jail, or ruin their careers, because SA might be pretending to be more "legitimate" than they really are.

When the Johnson book hit the shelves, I happened to notice that Suspended Animation was naming the perfusion group, on the SA website, and I became concerned. I thought it odd that SA refuses to name their own staff members, but was naming the perfusion group. (Is SA ashamed of their staff members, or are the staff members ashamed of cryonics? I suspect both.) I called my acquaintance, again, and asked him if he was aware of the book, or that his company was named on the SA website. He said he was not aware, of either, and seemed appropriately concerned about both. Personally, I think SA should have informed the perfusionists of the book and asked their permission to name the company on the website. If "FD," over on Cold Filter, wants to call my concern for my fellow perfusionists a "dirty trick," so be it, but in my opinion, they deserve the right to protect their identities, as much as, OR MORE THAN, the SA staff members, especially in light of the Johnson book, which implicates several people, with close ties to SA, in unethical behaviors.

The person I spoke to asked me how I got involved in cryonics politics. I told him I got involved because I thought cryonics patients deserved better care than what they were getting, and that I felt a lot of people were "scamming" the people funding the cryonics industry, by sending a bunch of laymen to botch femoral cannulations and perfusion attempts. His response? "Well, they're already dead, aren't they?" and "Everybody who pays for it knows there's little likelihood this will ever work, don't they?"

To be honest, the only objection I have to the first remark is that it indicates that person would not ever object to substandard care being given to cryonics patients, no matter how atrocious. In other words, if they arrived at procedures, for the next two decades, and there was never a good cannulation, or someone asked them to do something insane, (like deliver 17 liters of fluid to a patient, when there was no venous return), they wouldn't say anything.

As for the second remark, my response was, "Take a hike on the Suspended Animation website, and tell me you don't think they are misrepresenting the quality of their services to the people who are buying them." He didn't have anything to say about that, and I'm pretty sure he had never visited the SA website.

He told me he "...never had any problem with them, other than like you said, they can't do a femoral cannulation..." What does this mean? I think it means his group gets paid promptly, for providing perfusionists for training sessions and cases, and for leasing equipment, to SA. I was under the distinct impression he didn't really care about anything other than that. As he said, "They're (the patients) are already dead, aren't they?"

If I were managing a cryonics care facility, I wouldn't have any problem with hiring qualified perfusionists, even if they thought cryonics was the biggest joke, in the universe, as long as I felt they would properly perform their duties. However, to provide qualified perfusionists, without anyone to perform the cannulations they need, in order to properly perform perfusion, is just a waste of money, and sending only people who won't object to what I would call "malpractice," because the patients "are already dead," is not going to lead to progress. Someone involved has to give a damn about something other than the money.