'Hope Frozen': The cryonics industry offers strength to grieving families but does the technology actually work?
The mainstream scientific community is much more skeptical about the process, as we can see through the documentary
When it comes to scientific advancements, there is no question that the past 100 years have been characterized by a number of innovations that have propelled us much farther into the future – many of them in the medical field. One of those techniques that are considered groundbreaking by some but with skepticism by others, seems to be more like science-fiction rather than reality. Cryonics is the process of deep-freezing the bodies of people who have just died, in the hope that scientific advances may allow them to be revived in the future – this has been regarded with skepticism within the mainstream scientific community but for others, it presents hope.
In 2015, 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. Sahatorn made the decision to cryogenically freeze his child, in the hopes that she could be revived in the future when there would be a cure for her cancer.
The Naovaratpong family's quest to give their child a chance to live and the aftermath of that decision is the subject of Netflix's latest documentary, 'Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice'. Sahatorn passes on his dreams of reviving Einz to his son, Matrix, who himself holds up that dream with fervor. Matrix goes to visit an American scientist in the latter half of the documentary to learn how close they are to reviving those who have been cryogenically frozen. What he learns there is heartbreaking.
The scientist who worked on successfully freezing and reviving a rabbit tells him that current techniques mostly will not ensure that revival will be a successful process. The scientist stresses that the cell structure needs to be intact to ensure that the person being revived remains the same. However, with current techniques, he believes there will only be a 0.1% chance of success.
How exactly does cryonics work? Once the patient is declared clinically dead, cryonic technicians drain their blood and replace it with a solution designed to preserve organs, then follow it up with a “cryoprotectant” solution that freezes cells without causing the crystal formation that would damage them when returned to normal temperature. Bodies are then placed in tanks of liquid nitrogen for long-term storage -- the nitrogen must be regularly topped up.
The scientific community, however, is much more skeptical about the process, as we have seen in the documentary. What makes a person who they are, are their thoughts, memories, and their knowledge and the cryonics process could destroy the structure of the brain by dehydrating it. The method to recreate synaptic connections or the nervous system's workings in a virtual scenario is still an impossible task. A 2015 article from MIT Technology Review states that such a technology does not exist, even in principle, and says the cryonics industry is offering "an abjectly false hope that is beyond the promise of technology."
'Hope Frozen: A Quest to Live Twice' is now streaming on Netflix.