Cryonics (from Greek kryos- meaning icy cold) is the low-temperature preservation of humans and animals who can no longer be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that healing and resuscitation may be possible in the future. Cryopreservation of people or large animals is not reversible with current technology. The stated rationale for cryonics is that people who are considered dead by current legal or medical definitions may not necessarily be dead according to the more stringent information-theoretic definition of death. It is proposed that cryopreserved people might someday be recovered by using highly advanced future technology.
The future repair technologies assumed by cryonics are still hypothetical and not widely known or recognized. Responding to skepticism from scientists such as Steve Jones, an open letter supporting cryonics was written and signed by currently 62 scientists. As of 2010, only around 200 people have undergone the procedure since it was first proposed in 1962. In the United States, cryonics can only be legally performed on humans after they have been pronounced legally dead as otherwise it would count as murder or assisted suicide. Cryonics procedures ideally begin within minutes of cardiac arrest, and use cryoprotectants to prevent ice formation during cryopreservation. However, the idea of cryonics also includes preservation of people after longer post-mortem delays because of the possibility that brain structures encoding memory and personality may still persist or be inferable. Whether sufficient brain information still exists for cryonics to work under some preservation conditions may be intrinsically unprovable by present knowledge. Therefore, most proponents of cryonics see it as an intervention with prospects for success that vary widely depending on circumstances.
Premises of cryonics
A central premise of cryonics is that long-term memory, personality, and identity are stored in durable cell structures and patterns within the brain that do not require continuous brain activity to survive. This premise is generally accepted in medicine; it is known that under certain conditions the brain can stop functioning and still later recover with retention of long-term memory. Additional scientific premises of cryonics are that (1) brain structures encoding personality and long-term memory persist for some time after clinical death, (2) these structures are preserved by cryopreservation, and (3) future technologies that could restore encoded memories to functional expression in a healed person are theoretically possible.
Cryonics is controversial because the technologies of premise (3) are so advanced that premises (1) and (2) are considered irrelevant by most scientists. Whether biological traces of memory or personhood might persist after clinical death is obviously a question of interest. Similarly, outside of cryonics there is no interest in the question of whether memory encoding might survive cryopreservation because the question is regarded as meaningless until cryopreservation can be reversed. At present only cells, tissues, and some small organs can be reversibly cryopreserved. Medical science is primarily concerned with what is demonstrably achievable, not what is theoretically possible. There are therefore no established scientific specialties or journals directly concerned with the scientific questions posed by cryonics.
Cryonics advocates claim that it is possible to preserve the fine cell structures of the brain in which memory and identity reside with present technology. They say that demonstrably reversible preservation is not necessary to achieve the present-day goal of cryonics, which is preservation of brain information that encodes memory and personal identity. They believe that current cryonics procedures can preserve the anatomical basis of mind, and that this should be sufficient to prevent information-theoretic death until future repairs might be possible.
A moral premise of cryonics is that cryopreserving people when there is no other hope is the right thing to do, sometimes even under poor conditions that make the scientific premises of cryonics highly uncertain. Some cryonicists believe as a matter of principle that anyone who would ordinarily be regarded as dead should instead be made a "permanent patient" subject to whatever future advances might bring.
Long-term cryopreservation can be achieved by cooling to near 77.15 Kelvin, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen. It is a common mistaken belief that cells will lyse (burst) due to the formation of ice crystals within the cell, since this only occurs if the freezing rate exceeds the osmotic loss of water to the extracellular space. However, damage from freezing can still be serious; ice may still form between cells, causing mechanical and chemical damage. Cryonics organizations use cryoprotectants to reduce this damage. Cryoprotectant solutions are circulated through blood vessels to remove and replace water inside cells with chemicals that prevent freezing. This can reduce damage greatly, but freezing of whole people still causes injuries that are not reversible with present technology.
When used at high concentrations, cryoprotectants stop ice formation completely. Cooling and solidification without freezing is called vitrification. The first cryoprotectant solutions able to vitrify at very slow cooling rates while still being compatible with tissue survival were developed in the late 1990s by cryobiologists Gregory Fahy and Brian Wowk for the purpose of banking transplantable organs. These solutions were adopted for use in cryonics by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, for which they are believed to permit vitrification of some parts of the human body, especially the brain. This has allowed animal brains to be vitrified, warmed back up, and examined for ice damage using light and electron microscopy. No ice crystal damage was found. The Cryonics Institute also uses a vitrification solution developed by their staff cryobiologist, Dr. Yuri Pichugin, applying it principally to the brain.
Vitrification in cryonics is different than vitrification in mainstream cryobiology because vitrification in cryonics is not reversible with current technology. It is only structural vitrification. When successful it can prevent freezing injury in some body parts, but at the price of toxicity caused by cryoprotectant chemicals. The nature of this toxicity is still poorly understood. Cryonicists assume that toxicity is more subtle and repairable than obvious structural damage that would otherwise be caused by freezing. If, for example, toxicity is due to denatured proteins, those proteins could be repaired or replaced.
Ischemia means inadequate or absent blood circulation that deprives tissue of oxygen and nutrients. At least several minutes of ischemia is a typical part of cryonics because of the common legal requirement that cryonics procedures do not begin until after blood circulation stops. The heart must stop beating so that legal death can be declared. When there is advance notice of impending clinical death, it is sometimes possible to deploy a team of technicians to perform a “standby”. The team artificially restores blood circulation and breathing using techniques similar to CPR as soon as possible after the heart stops. The aim is to keep tissues alive after legal death by analogy to conventional medical procedures in which viable organs and tissues are obtained for transplant from legally deceased donors. Legal death does not mean that all the cells of the body have died.
Often in cryonics the brain is without oxygen for many minutes at warm temperatures, or even hours if the heart stops unexpectedly. This causes ischemic injury to the brain and other tissues that makes resuscitation impossible by present medical technology. Cryonicists justify preservation under such conditions by noting recent advances that allow brain resuscitation after longer periods of ischemia than the traditional 4-to-6-minute limit, and persistence of brain structure and even some brain cell function after long periods of clinical death. They argue that definitions of death change as technology advances, and the early stages of what is called “death” today is actually a form of ischemic injury that will be reversible in the future. They claim that personal survival during long periods of clinical death is determined by information-theoretic criteria.
Those who believe that revival may someday be possible generally look toward advanced bioengineering, molecular nanotechnology, nanomedicine, or mind uploading as key technologies. Revival requires repairing damage from lack of oxygen, cryoprotectant toxicity, thermal stress (fracturing), freezing in tissues that do not successfully vitrify, and reversing the effects that caused the patient's death. In many cases extensive tissue regeneration will be necessary. Hypothetical revival scenarios generally envision repairs being performed by vast numbers of microscopic organisms or devices. These devices would restore healthy cell structure and chemistry at the molecular level, ideally before warming. More radically, mind transfer has also been suggested as a possible revival approach if and when technology is ever developed to scan the memory contents of a preserved brain.
It has sometimes been written that cryonics revival will be a last-in-first-out process. In this view, preservation methods will get progressively better until eventually they are demonstrably reversible, after which medicine will begin to reach back and revive people cryopreserved by more primitive methods. Revival of people cryopreserved by early cryonics technology may require centuries, if it is possible at all. People cryopreserved in the future, with better technology, may require less advanced technology to be revived because they will have been cryopreserved with better technology that caused less damage to tissue. The "last in, first out" view of cryonics has been criticized because the quality of cryopreservation depends on many factors other than the era in which cryopreservation takes place.
It has been claimed that if technologies for general molecular analysis and repair are ever developed, then theoretically any damaged body could be “revived”. Survival would then depend on whether preserved brain information was sufficient to permit restoration of all or part of the personal identity of the original person, with amnesia being the final dividing line between success and failure.
Neuropreservation is motivated by the brain's role as the primary repository of memory and personal identity. (For instance, spinal cord injury victims, organ transplant patients, and amputees retain their personal identity.) It is also motivated by the belief that reversing any type of cryonic preservation is so difficult and complex that any future technology capable of it must by its nature be capable of generalized tissue regeneration, including growth of a new body around a repaired brain. Some suggested revival scenarios for whole body patients even involve discarding the original body and regenerating a new body because tissues are so badly damaged by the preservation process. These considerations, along with lower costs, easier transportation in emergencies, and the specific focus on brain preservation quality, have motivated many cryonicists to choose neuropreservation.
The advantages and disadvantages of neuropreservation are often debated among cryonics advocates. Critics of neuropreservation note that the body is a record of much life experience, including learned motor skills (muscle memory). While few cryonicists doubt that a revived neuro patient would be the same person, there are wider questions about how a regenerated body might feel different from the original. Partly for these reasons (as well as for better public relations), the Cryonics Institute preserves only whole bodies. Some proponents of neuropreservation agree with these concerns, but still feel that lower costs and better brain preservation justify concentrating preservation efforts on the brain. About two-thirds of the patients stored at Alcor are neuropreservation patients. Although the American Cryonics Society no longer offers the neuropreservation option, about half of their patients are "neuros".
Financing storage of a cryonics patient at a cryonics organization by an on-going payment system was done in the early days of cryonics, but this system proved to be unworkable. Cryonics patients are to be stored for many decades, if not a century or two or longer, and a reliable source of outside funding is highly unlikely. Pay-as-you go funding was part of the reason for the CSC Chatsworth financial failure described in the history section. All modern cryonics organizations require full payment for all future costs associated with storage "in perpetuity" before patient cryostorage will be accepted.
Costs of cryonics vary greatly, ranging from the basic fee of $10,000 for neuro (head or brain only) cryopreservation at the European cryonics company KrioRus, to more than $200,000 for whole body cryopreservation by Alcor with overseas and last-minute fees. Alcor's neuropreservation (just the head) is priced at 80,000. There is an extra $500 annual membership fee during life by Alcor. After payment of an initiaton fee, ACS full members pay an annual fee of $300 currently. To some extent these cost differences reflect differences in how fees are quoted. The Cryonics Institute fee does not include “standby” (a team waits for death to occur and begins procedures at bedside), transportation costs, or funeral director expenses outside of Michigan, which must be purchased as extras. CI Members wanting Standby and Transport from cryonics professionals can contract for additional payment to the Florida-based company Suspended Animation, Inc.
While cryonics is sometimes suspected of being greatly profitable, the high expenses of doing cryonics are well documented. The expenses are comparable to major transplant surgeries. The two most expensive things are standby expenses (a team of 5+ people needs to be hired for up to several weeks) and the money that must be set aside to generate interest to pay for storage of the patient in liquid nitrogen in perpetuity (especially for whole body patients).
The most common method of paying for cryonics is life insurance, which spreads the cost over many years. Cryonics advocates are quick to point out that such insurance is especially affordable for young people. Cryonics providers claim that even the most expensive cryonics plans are “affordable for the vast majority” of people in the industrialized world who really want it and plan for it in advance. With the advent of low-cost cryonics provided by companies such as KrioRus (so far in Europe only) cryonics becomes feasible even for last-minute cases.
Philosophical and ethical considerations
Cryonics is based on a view of dying as a process that can be stopped in the minutes, and perhaps hours, following clinical death. If death is not an event that happens suddenly when the heart stops, this raises philosophical questions about what exactly death is. In 2005 an ethics debate in the medical journal, Critical Care, noted “…few if any patients pronounced dead by today’s physicians are in fact truly dead by any scientifically rigorous criteria.” Cryonics proponent Thomas Donaldson has argued that “death” based on cardiac arrest or resuscitation failure is a purely social construction used to justify terminating care of dying patients. In this view, legal death and its aftermath are a form of euthanasia in which sick people are abandoned. Philosopher Max More suggested a distinction between death associated with circumstances and intention versus death that is absolutely irreversible. Absolutely irreversible death has also been called information-theoretic death, which implies destruction of the brain to such an extent that the original information content can no longer be recovered. Bioethicist James Hughes has written that increasing rights will accrue to cryonics patients as prospects for revival become clearer, noting that recovery of legally dead persons has precedent in the discovery of missing persons.
Ethical and theological opinions of cryonics tend to pivot on the issue of whether cryonics is regarded as interment or medicine. If cryonics is interment, then religious beliefs about death and afterlife may come into consideration. Resuscitation may be deemed impossible by those with religious beliefs because the soul is gone, and according to most religions only God can resurrect the dead. Cryonics advocates complain that theological dismissal of cryonics because it is interment is a circular argument because calling cryonics "interment" presumes a priori that cryonics cannot work. They believe future technical advances will validate their view that cryonics patients are recoverable, and therefore never really dead. If cryonics is regarded as medicine, with legal death as a mere enabling mechanism, then cryonics is a long-term coma with uncertain prognosis. It is continuing to care for sick people when others have given up.
Alcor has published a vigorous Christian defense of cryonics, including excerpts of a sermon by Lutheran Reverend Kay Glaesner. Noted Christian commentator John Warwick Montgomery has defended cryonics. In 1969, a Roman Catholic priest consecrated the cryonics capsule of Ann DeBlasio, one of the first cryonics patients. Many followers of Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov see cryonics as an important step in the Common Cause project (reference: Fedorov seminar in Moscow, Russia on 25.11.2006).
At the request of the American Cryonics Society, in 1995, Philosopher Charles Tandy, Ph.D. authored a paper entitled “Cryonic-Hibernation in Light of the Bioethical Principles of Beauchamp and Childress.” Dr. Tandy considered the four bioethical factors or principles articulated by philosophers Beauchamp and Childress as they apply to cryonics. These four principles are 1) respect for autonomy; 2) nonmaleficence; 3) beneficence; and 4) justice. Tandy concluded that in respect to all four principles “biomedical professionals have a strong (not weak) and actual (not prima facie, but binding) obligation to help insure cryonic-hibernation of the cryonics patient.”
Benjamin Franklin, in a 1773 letter, expressed regret that he lived "in a century too little advanced, and too near the infancy of science" that he could not be preserved and revived to fulfil his "very ardent desire to see and observe the state of America a hundred years hence". In 1922 Alexander Yaroslavsky, member of Russian immortalists-biocosmists movement, wrote "Anabiosys Poem". However, the modern era of cryonics began in 1962 when Michigan college physics teacher Robert Ettinger proposed in a privately published book, The Prospect of Immortality, that freezing people may be a way to reach future medical technology. Even though freezing a person is apparently fatal, Ettinger argued that what appears to be fatal today may be reversible in the future. He applied the same argument to the process of dying itself, saying that the early stages of clinical death may be reversible in the future. Combining these two ideas, he suggested that freezing recently deceased people may be a way to save lives.
Slightly before Ettinger’s book was complete, Evan Cooper (writing as Nathan Duhring) privately published a book called Immortality: Physically, Scientifically, Now that independently suggested the same idea. Cooper founded the Life Extension Society (LES) in 1964 to promote freezing people. Ettinger came to be credited as the originator of cryonics, perhaps because his book was republished by Doubleday in 1964 on recommendation of Isaac Asimov and Fred Pohl, and received more publicity. Ettinger also stayed with the movement longer. Nevertheless, cryonics historian R. Michael Perry has written “Evan Cooper deserves the principal credit for forming an organized cryonics movement.”
Cooper’s Life Extension Society became the seed tree for cryonics societies throughout the country where local cryonics advocates would get together as a result of contact through the LES mailing list. The actual word “cryonics” was invented by Karl Werner, then a student in the studio of William Katavolos at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, in 1965 in conjunction with the founding of the Cryonics Society of New York (CSNY) by Curtis Henderson and Saul Kent that same year. This was followed by the founding of the Cryonics Society of Michigan (CSM) and Cryonics Society of California (CSC) in 1966, and Bay Area Cryonics Society (BACS) in 1969 (renamed the American Cryonics Society, or ACS, in 1985). Neither CSNY nor CSC are currently in operation. CSM eventually became the Immortalist Society, a non-profit affiliate of the Cryonics Institute (CI), a cryonics service organization founded by Ettinger in 1976. CI now has more current cryonics patients than any other organization.
Although there was at least one earlier aborted case, it is generally accepted that the first person frozen with intent of future resuscitation was Dr. James Bedford, a 73-year-old psychology professor frozen under crude conditions by CSC on January 12, 1967. The case made the cover of a limited print run of Life Magazine before the presses were stopped to report the death of three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire instead. Bedford is still frozen today at Alcor.
Cryonics suffered a major setback in 1979 when it was discovered that nine bodies stored by the head of the CSC, Robert Nelson, in a cemetery in Chatsworth, California, had thawed due to depletion of funds by relatives, after being maintained for a year and a half at the personal expense of Nelson. Some of the bodies had apparently thawed years earlier without notification. Nelson was sued, and negative publicity slowed cryonics growth for years afterward. Of 17 documented cryonics cases between 1967 and 1973, only James Bedford remains cryopreserved today. Strict financial controls and requirements adopted in response to the Chatsworth scandal have resulted in the successful maintenance of almost all cryonics cases since that era.
The largest cryonics organization today, in terms of membership, was established as a nonprofit organization by Fred and Linda Chamberlain in 1972 as the Alcor Society for Solid State Hypothermia (ALCOR). In 1977, the name was changed to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation. In 1982, the Institute for Advanced Biological Studies (IABS), founded by Mike Darwin and Steve Bridge in Indiana, merged with Alcor. During the 1980s, Darwin worked with UCLA cardiothoracic surgery researcher Jerry Leaf at Alcor to develop a medical model for cryonics procedures. They pioneered the first consistent use of a cryonics procedure now known as a “standby”, in which a team waits to begin life support procedures at the bedside of a cryonics patient as soon as possible after the heart stops.
The oldest incorporated cryonics society still in existence is the American Cryonics Society (ACS). This tax-exempt 501(c)(3) membership organization was incorporated in 1969 as the Bay Area Cryonics Society (BACS) by a group of cryonics advocates that included two prominent Bay Area physicians, Dr. M. Coleman Harris and Dr. Grace Talbot. The first suspensions under BACS auspices were performed in 1974 by Trans Time, Inc., a for-profit company started by BACS members. BACS researcher Dr. Paul Segall, working with Jerry Leaf of CryoVita, developed a medical model to induce hypothermia shortly after pronouncement of death. Dr. Segall later went on to pioneer blood substitutes for use in both cryonic suspension and in mainstream medicine.
Cryonics received new support in the 1980s when MIT engineer Eric Drexler started publishing papers and books foreseeing the new field of molecular nanotechnology. His 1986 book, Engines of Creation, included an entire chapter on cryonics applications. Cryonics advocates saw the nascent field of nanotechnology as vindication of their long held view that molecular repair of injured tissue was theoretically possible. In the late 1980s Alcor member Dick Clair (who was dying of AIDS) sued for, and ultimately won for everyone, the right to be cryonically preserved in the State of California. Alcor’s membership expanded tenfold within a decade, with a 30% annual growth rate between 1988 and 1992.
On July 24, 1988, a Ph.D. in computer science named Kevin Brown started an electronic mailing list called CryoNet that became a powerful tool of communication for the cryonics community. Numerous other mailing lists and web forums for discussing cryonics and the affairs of particular organizations have since appeared, but CryoNet remains a central point of contact for cryonicists.
Alcor was disrupted by political turmoil in 1993 when a group of activists left to start the CryoCare Foundation, and associated for-profit companies CryoSpan, Inc. (headed by Paul Wakfer) and BioPreservation, Inc. (headed by Mike Darwin). Darwin and collaborators made many technical advances during this time period, including a landmark study documenting high quality brain preservation by freezing with high concentrations of glycerol. CryoCare ceased operations in 1999 when they were unable to renew their service contract with BioPreservation. CryoCare’s two patients stored at CryoSpan were transferred to Alcor. Several ACS patients stored at CryoSpan were transferred to CI.
There have been numerous, often transient, for-profit companies involved in cryonics. For-profit companies were often paired or affiliated with non-profit groups they served. Some of these companies, with non-profits they served in parentheses, were Cryonic Interment, Inc. (CSC), Cryo-Span Corporation (CSNY), Cryo-Care Equipment Corporation (CSC and CSNY), Manrise Corporation (Alcor), CryoVita, Inc. (Alcor), BioTransport, Inc. (Alcor), Trans Time, Inc. (BACS), Soma, Inc. (IABS), CryoSpan, Inc. (CryoCare and ACS), BioPreservation, Inc. (CryoCare and ACS), Kryos, Inc. (ACS), Suspended Animation, Inc. (CI, ACS, and Alcor). Trans Time and Suspended Animation are the only for-profit cryonics organizations that still exist.
The cryonics field seems to have largely consolidated around three non-profit groups, Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Cryonics Institute (CI), and the American Cryonics Society (ACS), all deriving significant income from bequests and donations. A newly formed non-profit group called the Cryonics Society was formally incorporated in 2006 but is devoted solely to promotion and public education of the cryonics concept.
As research in the 1990s revealed in greater detail the damaging effects of freezing, there was a trend to use higher concentrations of glycerol cryoprotectant to prevent freezing injury. In 2001 Alcor began using vitrification, a technology borrowed from mainstream organ preservation research, in an attempt to completely prevent ice formation during cooling. Initially the technology could only be applied to the head when separated from the body. In 2005 Alcor began treating the whole body with their vitrification solution in a procedure called "neurovitrification with whole body cryoprotection". In the same year, the Cryonics Institute began treating the head of their whole body patients with their own vitrification solution.
The Cryonics Institute maintains 98 human patients as of 9 July 2010 (along with about 70 pets) at its Clinton Township, Michigan facility. About a fifth of the cryopreserved humans and a smaller portion of the pets came to the CI facility through contract with the American Cryonics Society (which has no storage facilities of its own). Alcor currently maintains 98 cryonics patients in Scottsdale, Arizona. There are support groups in Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. There is also a smaller cryonics company in Russia maintains 12 human patients and 5 pets called KrioRus, and plans for a facility in Australia. There are also plans being developed by renowned architect Stephen Valentine for a multi-acre futuristic high security facility called Timeship to be built in an undisclosed location in the United States, as well as for an underground facility in Switzerland.
Cryonics in popular culture
Procedures similar to cryonics have been featured in innumerable science fiction stories to aid space travel (in particular interstellar travel), or as means to transport a character from the past into the future. In addition to accomplishing whatever the character's primary task is in the future, he or she must cope with the strangeness of a new world, which may contain only traces of their previous surroundings. This prospect of alienation is often cited as a major reason for the unpopularity of cryonics.
Notable early science fiction short stories featuring human cryopreservation, deliberate or accidental, include Lydia Maria Child's short story "Hilda Silfverling, A Fantasy" (1886), Jack London's first published work "A Thousand Deaths" (1899), V. Mayakovsky's "Klop" (1928), H.P. Lovecraft's "Cool Air" (1928), and Edgar Rice Burroughs' "The Resurrection of Jimber-Jaw" (1937). Many of the subjects in these stories are unwilling ones, although a 1939 short story by Neil R. Jones called "The Jameson Satellite", in which the subject has himself deliberately preserved in space after death, has been credited with giving Robert Ettinger the seed of the idea of cryonics, when he was a teenager. Ettinger would later write a science fiction story called The Penultimate Trump, published in 1948, in which the explicit idea of cryopreservation of legally dead persons for future repair of medical causes of death is promulgated.
Relatively few stories have been published concerning the primary objective and definition of cryonics, which is medical time travel. The most indepth novel based on contemporary cryonics is national best-seller The First Immortal by James L. Halperin (1998). Other novels include The Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein (1954), The Age of the Pussyfoot by Fred Pohl (1966) and Ubik by Philip K. Dick (1968), Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Charles Sheffield (1997), Chiller by Sterling Blake (a.k.a. Gregory Benford) (1993), Tech-Heaven by Linda Nagata (1995), Ralph’s Journey by David Pizer, Formerly Brandewyne by Jude Liebermann, and I Was a Teenage Popsicle by Bev Katz Rosenbaum. A fictional book about cryonics specifically for children is 21st Century Kids by Shannon Vyff.
Fictional application of cryonics as rescue after freezing in space has continued since The Jameson Satellite in 1931. Arthur C. Clarke's 3001: The Final Odyssey reveals that Frank Poole, murdered by HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey was cryopreserved by his exposure to space, and found and revived a thousand years later. The Larry Niven short story "Wait It Out" depicts a sort of emergency self-cryopreservation by men marooned on Pluto. The 1992 Hugo-winning novel A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge features a protagonist who is resuscitated by a superintelligence, thousands of years after a spaceship accident. Stanisław Lem described cryonic hibernation during space travel in his novel The Invincible, and used cryonic preservation (using device named in a way to suggest vitrification) as a major plot element in his novel Fiasco.
Movies featuring cryonics for medical purposes include the Woody Allen comedy, Sleeper, and the films Late for Dinner, Abre los Ojos (remade as Vanilla Sky) and Wes Craven's Chiller. One of the most famous movies regarding a cryonics-like process was 1992's Forever Young, starring Mel Gibson. A "CryoPrison" is where inmates are kept away from society and mentally reformed during their preservation in the film Demolition Man, while cryopreservation is used during space travel in the James Cameron films Aliens and Avatar. 2009's Pandorum features a form of cryopreservation which, upon waking from, subjects are left disoriented, with amnesia lasting anywhere from days to months, and, in rare instances, suffering from "Pandorum" a type of psychosis. Although not about cryonics per se, the Ron Howard film Cocoon has been hailed by cryonics advocates as expressing the values motivating cryonics better than any other film.
On television, cryonics has appeared occasionally since the 1970s. In 1977, an episode of Barney Miller included a member of the "Metropolitan New York Cryonic Society. Producer David E. Kelley wrote well-researched portrayals of cryonics for the TV shows L.A. Law (1990), Picket Fences (1994), and Boston Legal (2005) in each case, there was a dying plaintiff petitioning a court for the right to elective cryopreservation. Cryonics was also featured on Miami Vice (1987), SeaQuest DSV (1994), and the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Neutral Zone". In the pilot episode of Misfits of Science, Arnold "Beef" "Ice Man" Beifneiter was a cryopreserved subject from 1937 who, upon waking, is left simple-minded and with the power to freeze anything he touches, though vulnerable to warmer temperatures and kept cold in an ice cream truck. An episode of The Golden Girls includes all four eponymous women cryogenically preserved, but Dorothy, Blanche, and Rose saving only their heads. Sophia, whose body remains intact, informs them they needed "to tip the guy" to be fully preserved. On British TV, cryonics appeared in the last two television works of Dennis Potter, Karaoke and Cold Lazarus, and the long-running series Doctor Who, as well as its spin-off Torchwood. Cryonics was also satirized by the American comedy cartoon series Futurama, with the main character Philip J. Fry accidentally being frozen for 1000 years, to later wake up in the year 2999. The title character Aang in the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender and its live action film adaptation saved himself from drowning in a tempest by creating an ice bubble, preserving him for about a hundred years. Aurora a Spanish-based telenovela by telemundo deals with cryonics. A 20 year old woman is frozen and revived 20 years later, to fall in love with the son of her past love.
The most famous known cryopreserved patient is baseball player Ted Williams. The popular urban legend that Walt Disney was cryopreserved is false; he was cremated, and interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery. Robert A. Heinlein, who wrote enthusiastically of the concept, was cremated and had his ashes distributed over the Pacific Ocean. Timothy Leary was a long-time cryonics advocate, and signed up with a major cryonics provider. He changed his mind, however, shortly before his death, and so was not cryopreserved.