About four-and-a-half years ago, I stumbled into the world of cryonics. It was a cosmic accident, of sorts; I REALLY needed a job, and there was an ad on Monster.com, for a position at an alleged research company, doing something related to perfusion. The company turned out to be Suspended Animation, a cryonics facility located very near my home, so I forwarded my resume. When I answered the ad, I was told the position, (a management position), had already been filled, but they were interested in my perfusion background, so they invited me to do some consulting work. I was told SA's "research" mostly consisted of building equipment for performing cryopreservations, and was assured all their activities were perfectly legal.
Having participated in surgical procedures, which require cooling people to a state of "death," for short periods of time, for certain repairs to the aorta, I probably find the notion of cryonics a little less bizarre than most. On top of that, I truly believe people should have their last wishes carried out, if at all possible and legal, no matter what those of us left behind want for them. I accepted the consulting work, which mostly consisted of answering their questions about perfusion, and building some very simple perfusion circuits. A short time later, I was offered a very well-compensated fulltime position, which I also accepted. It was a mere five months, before I walked away, in total disgust.
Fairly early on, it became clear to me that these people were simply trying to build equipment for performing procedures, which are fundamentally the same as procedures that have been performed in heart surgery for many decades. Suspended Animation wanted to gain vascular access, and replace the blood of their recently-deceased clients, (people who had made arrangements for cryopreservation), with an organ preservation solution, while cooling them down to near zero degrees Celsius. After that, they were to transport the bodies to another cryonics facility, (either Cryonics Institute in Michigan, or Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona), where the bodies would be perfused with a cryopreservative solution, and cooled to cryogenic temperatures, before being placed in storage.
When I tried to convince my manager that the equipment SA needed to perform these procedures already existed, I was met with a tremendous amount of resistance. I wanted to believe that person was simply ignorant of vascular cannulations and perfusion and the related equipment, but it was impossible to believe that, for very long. It soon became quite clear to me that he did not want to use existing equipment because the "research" we were doing was the construction of HIS designs. Not only were his designs vastly inferior to existing equipment, but they were exponentially more expensive than existing equipment, due to the man-hours involved. He was easily making six figures, and he was paying several people, very generously, to assist him with his "R&D" projects, none of which would have made sense to anyone familiar with the medical procedures SA was trying to deliver. (He was also engaging in adolescent, manipulative behaviors, such as asking his employees to spy on one another, and coercing them into allowing him to use their email addresses, to support his own projects and further his political agendas.)
At first, I was unaware of the amount of money involved, so when I was told SA couldn't buy certain equipment, or hire qualified personnel, because such things were "too expensive," I believed those lies. Later, I found out Suspended Animation was receiving over a million dollars a year, from Life Extension Foundation (LEF) / Saul Kent and Bill Faloon. Others at Suspended Animation agreed with me, that the many of the projects were a ridiculous waste of time and money, but at least two of them encouraged me to "play along," so we could all keep collecting our very generous salaries. It's hard to blame them, for wanting that. We could come and go, as we pleased, or sit at our desks playing on the Internet all day, and no one would complain...at least not for so long as we didn't object to the mind-bendingly ridiculous design and fabrication projects, going on in the workshop.
When I left Suspended Animation, I left believing Mr. Kent and Mr. Faloon were the victims of a con artist, who had a few very generously-paid puppets supporting him...that IS truly what I believed. Mr. Faloon had never set foot in the facility, while I was there, and I think Mr. Kent had only visited three, or four, times, usually just for a few hours. I tried to walk away and not look back, but four months after my resignation, I decided I could not sit by, in silence, while a group of laymen, armed with "garage project" equipment, tried to charge $60,000 for procedures, which are normally performed by vascular surgeons and perfusionists, (even if the recipients were already dead). It was "false advertising" in the very least, in my opinion.
I began writing about SA's activities, on the Internet, thinking people in the cryonics community would be appalled, and something would be done about the activities at the small facility, in Boynton Beach, Florida. Imagine my surprise, when someone with the initials "MD" after his name, (someone on the opposite coast of this country, someone who had never worked with me), defended that organization by posting a number of blatant, vicious lies about my activities there. This physician is someone who has been performing surgical experiments for cryonics purposes, on dogs, for many years. His co-workers, at Critical Care Research, in Rancho Cucamonga, California, are said to be three of his family members and they, too, are funded by LEF / Mr. Kent and Mr. Faloon. According to LEF's Form 990s, CCR received in excess of $900,000, in 2008. This person, someone who did not hesitate to publish vicious lies about a medical professional he had never met, (and sees no harm in placing dangerous general anesthetic drugs, such as propofol, in the hands of laymen he does not know), has been earning a bundle, working in cryonics, for many years. He has been caught in numerous lies and mistakes, regarding the procedures Alcor and Suspended Animation are attempting to perform. There's more like him...not physicians, but others who seem willing to misrepresent their capabilities and deceive the public, in exchange for salaries and benefits most REAL medical professionals will never see.
It is no longer possible for me to believe what I witnessed was an isolated bit of corruption, and the picture gets bigger, by the year. It's also no longer possible for me to think of Mr. Kent and Mr. Faloon as victims; they can't possibly be THAT blind to what goes on at their organizations. Just recently, Mr. Kent has been associated with a new push to market cryonics in Europe, with the leader of that effort being a silly young man who has held positions of power in the Church of Satan, and the Temple of Vampires. The new cryonics "leader," someone who seems to be supported by Saul Kent and Ben Best, is not a medical professional, or a scientist, but a known cult member in organizations thought, by most, to be nothing more than pyramid schemes? That's beyond ridiculous, and it makes it VERY hard to believe Mr. Kent, Mr. Best and their peers are actually interested in advancing the science of hypothermic medicine.
For forty years, cryonics "research" has primarily consisted of laymen attempting to build equipment that already exists, and laymen trying to train other laymen how to perform the tasks of paramedics, perfusionists, and vascular surgeons...much of this time with the benefactors having ample funding to provide the real thing, in regard to both equipment and personnel. Organizations such as Alcor and Suspended Animation, which want to charge $60,000 to $150,000, (not to mention other extra charges, or years worth of membership dues), are not capable of preserving brains and/or bodies in a condition likely to be viable in the future. People associated with these companies, have been known to encourage people, not only to leave hefty life insurance policies with their organizations listed as the beneficiaries, to pay for these amateur surgical procedures, but to leave their estates and irrevocable trusts to cryonics organizations.
Some cryonicists make the seemingly-valid argument that people like Saul Kent and Bill Faloon contribute MILLIONS of dollars, each year, to cryonics organization, with no return. To be honest, I really can't figure it out, but something is seriously wrong with two allegedly-stellar businessmen, to be funding what appears to be mostly a scam. Then, again, the "tipping point" to earn money, at those prices, (not to mention the donations of irrevocable trusts, and bequests), must be relatively low. My guess is, even a small percentage of the funerary business must be worth exponentially more than they have been putting into their cryonics ventures.
Again, I have no problem with people receiving their last wishes. If people want to be cryopreserved, I think they should have that right. BUT...companies should not be allowed to deceive people who wish to be cryopreserved. They should not be allowed to publish photos of what looks like medical professionals performing surgery, but in actuality, is a group of laymen playing doctor with a dead body...people whose incompetency will result in their clients being left warm (and decaying), for many hours while they struggle to perform a vascular cannulation, or people whose brains will be underperfused or turned to mush, by laymen who have no idea how to properly and safely operate a perfusion circuit. Cryonics companies should not be allowed to refer to laymen as "Chief Surgeon," "Surgeon," "Perfusionist," when these people hold no medical credentials. IT'S FRAUDULENT.
It is time for legislators, (both here, in the US, and abroad), to recognize cryonics scams, and to restrict laymen from performing surgical procedures on dead bodies, (I don't know why licensed embalmers, (other than those in the State of Michigan), haven't already done something about this. Maybe the numbers just aren't big enough to worry them, yet.) It's also time for regulators to sanction medical personnel who enable laymen to have access to dangerous prescription medications, and engage in other unethical activities, related to cryonics. It's time...it's past time.