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Science, Health and Technology
Tue January 22, 2013
Missouri girl undergoes cryopreservation
Kim Suozzi, a graduate of Truman State University, passed away on January 17. Upon death, her body was cryopreserved--frozen--and relocated to a cryopreservation facility called the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona.
Suozzi became briefly internet-famous last September when she wrote a lengthy and heartfelt message on her birthday and posted it to the popular website Reddit. In her post, she reflected that she was unlikely to see another birthday due to her aggressive, inoperable brain cancer. It was time, she said, to start thinking about things she needed to do before she died. The post went viral and while she received thousands of suggestions for activities, one response caught her eye the most: the idea that she could preserve her body for a future time when science might be able to safely revive her and cure her cancer.
According to Alcor, "cryonics" (not cryogenics) is:
an effort to save lives by using temperatures so cold that a person beyond help by today's medicine might be preserved for decades or centuries until a future medical technology can restore that person to full health.
A key technology, Alcor says, is "vitrification," a method of freezing the body such that no ice crystals form, allowing the cells to remain intact. It's currently not possible to revive a human body after vitrification. This, like a cure for cancer, is one more thing that must develop in order for Suozzi to be restored at some future point.
A few months before she passed away, I spoke to Suozzi in an interview that never made it to air. At the time she was living in Columbia with her boyfriend. She told me that she was religiously agnostic, but had a strong faith in technology:
"Technology is accelerating so fast that it's likely that in 40 or 50 years, we'll have technology that we can't imagine now. I always thought I'd get skin cancer or some disease but they'll have cured it by then. I was blown away that I got it this young."
Her story got the attention of an advocacy group called The Society for Venturism. The group advocates for research and participation in cryonics. A full body cryonic preservation at Alcor costs between $70,000 and $200,000. Between Reddit, a few bloggers, and the Society for Venturism, Suozzi was able to raise enough money to afford the procedure. When I spoke to her in late September, Suozzi had already raised about $50,000. It's not clear at this time what the final cost was. According to the Society for Venturism, Alcor will release more details on their blog in the coming days.
The science blog, i09 has this official statement from Suozzi's boyfriend Josh Schisler:
Our hope is that technology will continue to progress to the point that Kim may have a real chance of living again in the future. Unfortunately, the development of the requisite technologies could be decades or centuries away. Since Kim is no longer with us to explore and innovate in the field of neuroscience, she is counting on all of us to push for the innovations she had hoped to see in her lifetime.
Until (or unless) the day comes that Kim can be brought back, remember her, celebrate her, and emulate her resilience, so we can create the future of her dreams.
Nobody is too young to make cryopreservation arrangements.