'Hope Frozen': Grief, optimism and science intersect in documentary about youngest person cryogenically frozen
'Hope Frozen' is a scientifically heavy documentary compared to others that we may have seen, but it is also one heavy with human emotions
In 2015, Thailand's Matheryn Naovaratpong became the youngest person to be cryogenically frozen at just two years old. Matheryn aka Einz was the second child of Sahatorn and Nareerat Naovaratpong, whose first child, Matrix, had wanted a younger sibling. The baby brought joy to the family when she was born. However, she developed a rare form of brain cancer just after her second birthday -- a form of cancer for which the survival rate was minimal if not zero.
The decision to cryogenically freeze Einz came from Sahatorn, a doctor who had been looking at solutions through Einz's illness. His family supported him in spite of concerns from others. Sahatorn's family's decision to cryogenically freeze Einz and where they went from there is the subject of the latest documentary on Netflix, 'Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice'. For Sahatorn and Nareerat, only one thing was important -- to give their child a chance to live.
The Naovaratpong family made headlines around the world with their decision to freeze their child, for which they employed the services of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. Since they had made the decision before Einz's death, Alcor's team was already present in Thailand to prepare Einz's body for the process of cryogenics. Her family chose to stay in the room to watch the surgical process.
Most of us might wonder whether we are advanced enough to have succeeded in cryogenics which has long been a part of science-fiction. However, it is faith and hope that drove the Naovaratpong family to make their decision -- not just in current scientific processes, but also in the belief that human society could be one day be advanced enough where there are no diseases or illnesses, and where there would be a cure for Einz's cancer.
'Hope Frozen' is a scientifically heavy documentary compared to others that we may have seen -- there is a lot of jargon thrown around but this does nothing to take away from the Naovaratpong family's story. If the first half of the documentary focused on Sahatorn, the second half focuses on Matrix, the boy who wanted a sibling. It does not take much to see that Matrix is a science genius thanks to Sahatorn's grooming, Matrix himself has developed a deep interest in scientific methods. It takes a lot of maturity for a boy of that age to willfully take on his father's dreams, one that may bear no fruition.
So it is especially hard to watch when Matrix, at 16 years old, visits an American scientist who had successfully frozen and revived a rabbit brain. On speaking to the scientist, Matrix learns that current cryogenics techniques may not work when it comes to the revival process. Matrix speaks of seeing his sister's eyeballs sucked in during the post-death process and the scientist admits that there is only a 0.1% chance that Einz would be revived as the Einz he knows. For Matrix, who knows that personality and memories are what make a person, this is devastating news. When he conveys it to his parents, however, Sahatorn responds with optimism.
Of course, there are many ethical considerations when it comes to science that we don't understand. For instance, given that Einz did not consent herself to be cryogenically frozen, Sahatorn and his family were questioned by Thai media on whether she knew what they were doing or whether they were trapping her soul.
'Hope Frozen' is a difficult documentary but the truth is that it is one that needs to be seen. Science is not as tangible as we would like to believe it is. Today, humans are able to do incredible things thanks to scientific discoveries, but if science-fiction is to be believed, we have a long way to go. How far are we willing to go, however? 'Hope Frozen' only briefly touches on the ethics of the situation, but when tied with the human story, it is enough to drive home the message.
It also makes us wonder about grief, which is again a subject of much scrutiny. The Naovaratpong family is willing to go to any length and themselves remain frozen in the grief in their efforts to keep Einz and her memory alive. While Matrix seems quite well-adjusted, we cannot help but wonder what toll the experience will have on him.
'Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice' is now streaming on Netflix.