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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A weekly column for those who live and walk in Silicon Valley

by Barbara Dahlgren

Freeze Frame
Column for the week of July 14-27, 2002

There is much controversy over what is to be done with the dead body of baseball legend Ted Williams who passed away at the age of 83 about a week ago. His eldest daughter, Barbara Joyce Williams Ferrell, feels that her dad should be cremated and his ashes scattered in the Florida Keys where he loved to fish. On the other hand, half brother, John Henry Williams, wants his father to be frozen, so he had the body shipped to a cryonics company in Arizona. Could these siblings be any further from opposite ends of the spectrum? Both have different interpretations of what dad wanted. One says fire. One says ice.

By definition, cryonics is the "practice of freezing the body of a person who has just died in order to preserve it for possible resuscitation in the future," perhaps after a cure for what caused the death is found. The body is "cooled down to the point where all physical life functions, and all physical decay, completely stops." Then after science has discovered a cure for what killed him and figured out how to actually bring him back to life, the person is restored to live happily ever after and be an asset to society. However that doesn't appear to be John Henry Williams' motive. It seems he wants to preserve dear, old Dad so he can sell his DNA. But if John Henry is the result of what Ted Williams' DNA has already produced, I'm not sure it will have much market value.

I hope John Henry shopped around for a good deal. Prices can vary. You can pay up to $120,000 for "whole body suspension." Some cryonics companies will give you a discount for the "neuro" option, which means only your head is frozen. I did find one place with a promo stating, "Through insurance funding, an average middle-aged man in average middle-aged health may be able to arrange a suspension at a cost lower than his monthly cable bill." That may or may not be a good deal. They obviously haven't seen my cable bill.

It's a fact that some living creatures, human tissues, sperm, and human embryos have been cooled down to a non-living state and then been restored. With the advancement of "nanotechnology" which is the "manipulation of individual atoms or molecules to build or repair virtually any physical object, including human cells and biological tissue," the goals of cryonics will probably be met in the future. Over 1000 deceased people have already been put in cryonic-suspension, but it is illegal to do so to someone who is still living. To date, no adult has had the cryonic-suspension reversed.

There is much debate over cryonics. Some say it is trying to raise the dead. Others say there is a difference in being clinically dead which is without breathing or heartbeat, and brain dead. Clinically dead people are restored daily through CPR or those electro-shocky thingies they put on your chest in the hospital to restore you. Cryonics says you are only absolutely dead when your brain is completely destroyed.

Why is man so interested in cryonics? Is the goal really to develop life saving medical techniques for mankind? Or is it an attempt to control that which only God can give and take away? The Cryonics Institute says, "The only alternative to cryonics is certain physical death, and all too little time before it comes." It's true that no one is in a hurry to face death, but cryonics preys on the emotions of those who have lost loved ones and would like them restored. It preys on man's fear of death and the unknown that follows. It offers man the opportunity to thumb his nose at God and be in control. It offers the possibility to live forever...eternal life. It's interesting to note that God offers us the same thing. (John 3:15; John 10:28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 2:25) But with God's offer comes peace not fear. (John 14:27) God's offer is filled with surety not possibilities. I'd rather place my confidence in Him. For as noble as the motives of cryonics may sound, there will always be a John Henry Williams to mess it up.

©July 2002

Be sure to visit this page every week to read the next edition of Walking in the Valley. You can write to the author at bydahlgren@aol.com.



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