Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Response to Mike Darwin's "Manifesto"

I do not believe anyone who truly knows me would think I fit the definition of a "sociopath," a "cretin," a “lunatic,” a "Nazi," or any of the other derogatory names, Mike Darwin has been throwing around. The information presented as factual, (as opposed to items clearly designated as opinion, or hearsay), on my blog, is accurate, to the best of my knowledge. The fact that I may agree, on a few points, with the more vitriolic critics of cryonics activities, does not indicate I agree with them on everything, or with the way they express themselves.

Contrary to Mike Darwin’s complaints, I have not engaged in publishing lies, and I have never run background checks on, or published information about the private lives of, the people I have criticized. However, Mike Darwin's associates, such as Charles Platt, Steve Harris MD, and Jordan Sparks did do those things, to me, in lieu of producing valid responses to the legitimate concerns I expressed about the activities of LEF-funded Suspended Animation.
Mike Darwin, himself, has told many lies, including claiming he was, at one time, a “board-eligible perfusionist.” To make such a claim implies he was aware of the requirements, and I’m sure he knows he has never even come close to meeting the qualifications required to sit for the ABCP exams. When I challenged him on his false claim, he disappeared from the forum where that discussion was taking place.

Now, Mr. Darwin wants to argue that cryonics would be better-modeled after a secret fraternal organization. Fancy that. It makes sense for him to make such a suggestion, because only when hidden from the public view, can Mr. Darwin perpetuate his lies, pretend to be a “Chief Surgeon,” or a perfusionist, and try to pass himself off as some sort of respected, accomplished expert in the medical sciences. Unfortunately for Mr. Darwin, the people who have caused his reputation the most harm, are his peers, and his former co-workers at Alcor. In all actuality, it is most likely Mr. Darwin’s own actions, which have damaged his reputation to the point, where he is no longer welcomed as an employee, of cryonics organizations, (in spite of the fact that he seems to take credit for, not only their alleged successes, but in one recent article, even their failures!).

I have no objection to people being cryogenically-preserved. In fact, I am fascinated with the concept, and I think everyone should receive what he/she wishes, at the time of legal death. With that said, I believe organizations, such as Alcor and Suspended Animation, have grossly misrepresented themselves in the public eye, and people are not getting what they may think they are paying for, when they subscribe to the services of those organizations. Mike Darwin has played a large role in this deception, by assigning labels, such as "Surgeon," and even "Chief Surgeon," to himself and others, in Alcor's published case reports, (something I'm told is illegal, in the State of Arizona). These deceptive practices must stop. As I've written, many times, if these organizations want to give full disclosure, I will have little objection to their activities. (By “full disclosure,” I do not mean making statements, hidden in the small print of lengthy documents no one ever reads, while presenting themselves, to the public, as something much more than what they really are.)

In essence, I feel people are being "conned" out of up to $200,000, (plus decades of membership dues, insurance premiums, and other miscellaneous charges), for services, which have been grossly misrepresented and are far inferior to what they could be. On top of that, people are being encouraged to leave trust funds, or even their estates, to organizations that have produced little valid scientific research, and whose leaders have made them the subjects of ridicule and harsh criticism, through their many questionable activities, and nearly-total lack of progress. Cryonics organizations sell their services with a heavy reliance on the capabilities, and altruism, of people who have yet to be born, (the "scientists of the future). These organizations expect their clients to believe these future scientists and clinicians will not only cure what cryo-suspended persons have died from, but repair the extreme degree of damage the cryonics organizations, themselves, are inflicting, with their DIY equipment and unskilled personnel.

Some of the people, determined to make sure cryonics stays on the same path, are extremely intelligent, but intelligence does not guarantee competence, ethical behavior, or even good intentions. Many of their writings are seriously flawed, and others appear to be nothing more than the regurgitation of information readily found in textbooks. Their rationale for their activities is inconsistent, at best. In one venue, we have LEF-funded Steve Harris maintaining the liquid ventilation project has taken so long, (more than a decade), because they were trying to minimize lung damage; in another venue, we have LEF-funded Brian Wowk responding to some of my criticisms, with the excuse that the vitrification solutions are so toxic, it doesn’t matter how much damage laymen care providers inflict. These arguments contradict one another, and it’s only one, of many examples, of their inconsistencies. These two men, and others, want the amateur engineering projects to continue, indefinitely, for what I believe are obvious reasons.

For approximately 40 years, cryonics has resembled a garage project, rather than a medical-science endeavor. There have been decades devoted to ridiculous design and fabrication projects, when the majority of the equipment could have been purchased, for but a fraction of what Alcor and/or the LEF-funded organizations paid to amateur engineers, to design and build grossly inferior equipment. For example, I estimate that well into seven figures has been spent, (mostly man-hours), over the decades, on the amateur design of perfusion circuits to be used for the vitrification process, when a state-of-the-art heart-lung machine would easily fulfill the requirements, and for a price barely into six figures. Instead of using their millions to purchase the appropriate equipment, and hiring qualified personnel to perform their procedures, these companies spend millions, year-after-year, on DIY equipment, and on trying to train laymen to perform the tasks of skilled medical professionals. For them to claim they do not have the financing to do better, while offering up the Timeship project, is absurd. I no longer see any hope of reform, and look at the entire industry as being rife with corruption, quacks, cranks and con artists.

As far as I know, I am the only person who writes on cryonics forums, who has actually participated in procedures in which people were cooled to clinical death, and then revived. How many cryonicists really believe I am just a mean-spirited, spiteful woman, on some sort of warped personal vendetta? Isn’t it much more likely that I am a professional, with relevant experience, who is appalled at what I see as a mockery of medical procedures that have played an important role in my life? I have a cumulative decade of surgical experience, in conventional medicine, and there is not one co-worker, past or present, (outside of cryonics), who would describe me as anything less than professional, ethical and easy to get along with.

I am truly fascinated with the notion of exploring the extension of existing hypothermic medical procedures. If there are people I would like to see removed from the cryonics arena, it is because I believe those people stand in the way of ethical behavior and professionalism, (and, therefore, any hope of progress), in the interest of padding their own egos and/or wallets, indefinitely. Many of these people have greatly benefitted, from the generosity of the benefactors of cryonics organizations, while leaving their organizations in the “dark ages” of hypothermic medicine. Logically, cryonics procedures should be an extension of hypothermic procedures being performed in conventional medicine, yet cryonics procedures, as provided by the existing organizations, pale in comparison to the conventional procedures, as they were decades ago! The people responsible for this situation have a million excuses, such as “We can’t afford to hire qualified personnel,” but one needs only to look at their salaries, most of which exceed that of the majority of medical professionals, to know this is not true.

How many cryonicists can look at the recent decisions and activities, of Alcor, the LEF-funded organizations, Cryonics Institute, and the American Cryonics Society, and pretend the leaderships of those organizations are capable of rendering cryonics more acceptable to the general population? How many cryonicists think the endless amateur equipment design and fabrication projects really qualify as “research and development," of the nature needed to advance the science of cryonics? How many cryonicists want another 40 years of little-to-no progress, and abundant scandal? Do cryonicists think they will receive anything other than that, for so long as the key players remain the same? Though Max More appears to be an incredibly intelligent man, he does not have a background in the medical sciences. Who will be his mentors, in regard to the medical procedures Alcor is trying to perform? The same people who have botched so many procedures, made so many mistakes, and brought little but embarrassment to the cryonics community, with their non-sensical amateur efforts, and their apparent disregard for the reputations of their organizations? How many cryonicists think the cryonics community can avoid stringent regulation, if these activities continue?

(A digression: As many people know, I question the appointment, of Mr. More, at Alcor, given his propensity for shocking people with his unconventional ideas, public antics, and published documents that would probably send his resume into the wastebasket, in most of corporate America. Let's face it, most companies interested in gaining more respect from the general public, would not consider Mr. More for a leadership position, but no one can deny his obvious extreme degree of intelligence. Will he stray off the beaten path that has taken Alcor nowhere, or will he allow himself to be subjected to the advice of those who have come before him, and who have accomplished so very little of significance? Will he define himself as a true independent thinker and take cryonics in a new direction, or will he become just another cog in a well-oiled propaganda machine?)

Mike Darwin’s “call for action” was a plea for people to stop supplying the critics of cryonics organizations, with information. None of the cryonicists, who communicate with me, (and a number of them are in favor of regulation), have any respect for Mike Darwin; they see him as a pariah, someone who has caused great harm to the cryonics community. If people of the cryonics community want to join Mr. Darwin in his “secret society,” and freeze one another, in each other’s garages, have at it, (sarcasm, not an endorsement of illegal activities). However, if cryonics organizations want to pretend they are something they are not, by publishing reports that refer to laymen, as “surgeons,” or other medical professionals, while charging unsuspecting clients up to $200,000, for their poor-performed procedures, do not expect my peers and I to sit, idly by, saying nothing. The medical community will not be able to ignore reports filled with medical terminology, (often used improperly, because the authors do not understand the procedures they are discussing), which appear to be intended to mislead the public, in regard to the capabilities of these organizations.

I am not “attempting to destroy cryonics,” and I have no “thirst for death and blood in the arena,” (Mr. Darwin’s remarks that have had me laughing, for days, and will humor my friends, co-workers and relatives, no small amount). Mike Darwin has every reason to want cryonics to go underground. I, on the other hand, want the organizations to operate in a way that is beyond public reproach. Who is really more likely to “destroy cryonics,” someone like Mike Darwin, or someone like me?

Mr. Darwin may impress a small number of people, mostly comprised of laymen, by churning out technical mumbo-jumbo, but he will never be admired, in the world of conventional hypothermic medicine. Sometimes, people ask me to respond to his ramblings, but I don’t have time to carry on technical debates, with someone whose arguments are filled with lies and mistakes, (not to mention cultish rhetoric), in front of an audience comprised mostly of laymen. I am going to answer Mike Darwin's “call to action," but not in the arena of cryonics Internet forums, and not with an army of laymen.

To cryonicists, who would like to see something more than promises of the future, from people who cannot deliver today’s technology, I wish you all well. I hope you will achieve your dream, in spite of Mr. Darwin, and others like him. Who knows? Maybe it will be an “annus mirabilis,” for the cryonics community.