Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Truth About Suspended Animation's "Success"

Recently, Charles Platt, a former manager and director of Suspended Animation (SA) wrote a Cryonet post, in which he took credit for saving that company from extinction, defended their equipment, and bragged about their "progress" and recent case performance. I've been wanting to take the time to respond to that post, but it appears to have been deleted from the queue, before being posted. Regardless, this was not the first time Mr. Platt has made these assertions, so they are easy to recall. In examining Mr. Platt's assessment, of Suspended Animation (SA), it's important to recognize SA's goal of providing "standby, stabilization and transport," for what it is.

The "standby" portion of their goal requires sending staff members, or associated personnel, to a client's bedside, in the hopes of immediately placing that person in an ice bath, administering certain medications, and circulating the client's blood (to distribute the medications and facilitate cooling), just after legal death has been pronounced. Provided that conventional medical personnel have left IV lines in place, these tasks require only a minimal amount of training, and just about anyone of reasonable intelligence could perform them. The key problem with this step is arriving prior to legal death, since not many people know ahead of time, when they will die.

The "stabilization" portion of SA's services requires the cannulation of an artery and a vein, so that a perfusion circuit can be used to replace the blood with an organ preservation solution, which will then be circulated, (via the perfusion circuit), while the client is cooled to near zero degrees Celsius. These tasks are critical, and require skilled personnel, who can perform a good vascular cannulation in a timely fashion, and who can perform perfusion without causing injury to the patient. (The improper use of a perfusion circuit can result in devastating injury to the patient, and a patient cannot be properly perfused without a good cannulation.)

The "transport" portion of SA's services requires being able to pack the client in a manner that will keep his/her temperature as close to zero, as possible, and transport them to CI, or Alcor, (while abiding by applicable local and federal laws, of course). While this requires a lot of diligence and planning, it's not something that requires special clinical skills related to performing medical procedures.

Most reasonably intelligent persons could easily be trained to perform the "standby" and "transport" procedures, but the same is not true of the "stabilization" procedures, which require a proper education and extensive clinical training, under the supervision of qualified, competent instructors. Femoral cannulations and perfusion are safely performed, all around the world, on a daily basis, by competent personnel. A small percentage of these cases include cooling patients to deep hypothermia (below 18 degrees C) and removing them from all forms of support, for procedures that require the cessation of blood flow. These people are "technically" dead, while the procedure is taking place, and then they are warmed and revived. These procedures have been successfully performed, for decades, and what SA is attempting to do should mimic those procedures, for the most part. SA's cannulation procedures should be identical to those that have been performed, by vascular surgeons in conventional medicine, millions of times, yet SA continues to botch these procedures, to this day. In regard to perfusion, the only differences from conventional medical procedures will be the removal of the blood, (which only involves opening and closing a couple of clamps), and the degree of cooling, (variations a skilled perfusionist would be capable of performing, with less than five minutes of prior instruction). The bottom line to all this is: SA's goal is something conventional medical professionals have been capable of providing, for many decades, and SA should have made use of such personnel, and the equipment associated with proven hypothermic procedures. They have the necessary funding.

As of June 2007, SA's CEO, Saul Kent, had been involved in cryonics for more than 30 years ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saul_Kent ) and SA's manager, Charles Platt, had been involved for approximately 17 years, ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Platt_(author) ). At various times, Mr. Platt was the co-founder and president of CryoCare, the COO of Alcor, and a director and manager of Suspended Animation. In June 2007, SA had been in existence for approximately five years, with an annual budget exceeding one million dollars. Though Mr. Platt may claim he was not the "manager" of SA for entirety of the three years leading up to June 2007, I believe he directed most of SA's activities during much of that time, (and I'm certain there are others who would agree with that assessment).

In June 2007, on behalf of SA and Mr. Kent, Mr. Platt sent three laymen, with no medical experience, whatsoever, to perform medical procedures, which are most likely to cause serious injury to patients, when performed by unqualified persons. Mr. Platt seems to think the two-three years leading up to, and culminating in, that event, constitute a success story. In truth, for two men with a combined 47 years of cryonics experience, (not to mention decades of advice from other "cryonics experts"), and more-than ample funding, with the goal being to provide surgical procedures that were virtually perfected in conventional medicine many decades ago, there could be no finer example of a more miserable failure.

While Mr. Platt may have been successful in getting LEF to continue pouring more than a million dollars a year into SA, I think his assessment of their "success" is more than a little misguided. The medical professionals I know, who perform procedures virtually identical to those being attempted by SA, would not have been impressed with the activities I witnessed at SA. Like me, they would have tried to change things, and would have been baffled by Mr. Platt's resistance to change. Like me, their suggestions for change would have most likely been met with extremely subversive and unprofessional behavior, which I believe was intended to undermine any efforts to re-direct the focus of SA away from Mr. Platt's own design and fabrication projects, in favor of proven existing equipment much less costly than Mr. Platt's projects.

Judging by what I've heard, and read, I don't think SA has accomplished much of significance, since June 2007, and as a follow-up to this post, I will soon be writing a review of SA's CI-95 case report, on my blog.

(This is not meant to be a personal attack on Mr. Platt, but a criticism of his assessment of SA as a "success." I consider Mr. Platt to be very intelligent and a gifted journalist/author, but I believe he is, at best, misguided, in regard to his work related to hypothermic medical science/cryonics. If I have criticized him more than I have criticized others, it is because of my firsthand experiences working with him, at SA, and because he persists in defending professional decisions I consider to be indefensible. There will be no progress, in cryonics, for so long as the people with the most influence continue to believe they are making progress, when they have yet to come up to speed with that which existed, decades ago.)