Premortem Cryopreservation - Recognizing a Patient's Right to Die in Order to Live

by Ryan Sullivan

“[I]n this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Is it possible that Ben Franklin was only half right? Advancements in cryobiology, the study of biological systems at a very low temperature, have led many to believe that immortality may be achievable through cryopreservation. The belief is that if a body is properly preserved, the patient can effectively “wait” for the scientific and medical advancements necessary to reanimate and cure the body of the fatal injury or disease. The primary objective in the preservation process is to preserve the brain. The brain contains neurological information that makes up the identity and memories of the person being preserved. If the brain is severely damaged, reanimation is not thought possible.

In the ideal case, the cryopreservation procedure begins immediately after the person is pronounced clinically dead, ensuring the brain is cooled and preserved before any damage can occur. This perfect scenario is not possible, however, for a cryonicist (i.e., an individual pursuing cryopreservation) suffering from a terminal brain disease, such as cancer. In this case, by the time the patient dies “naturally” from the cancer, his or her brain is already destroyed – there is nothing left to preserve. To maintain any chance of future reanimation, the patient must be preserved prior to the cancer consuming the brain – preservation must commence pre-mortem. This, of course, raises numerous thorny issues involving privacy, self-determination, morality, and assisted suicide.

Over the past 50 years, a trend towards a stronger constitutional right to privacy and self-determination has emerged – beginning with Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965, then Roe v. Wade in 1973. More recently, the Supreme Court has recognized a patient’s right to refuse medical treatment, and some states have found a right to assistance in committing suicide. When such privacy rights are found, courts then balance these rights against the competing state interests in preserving life, preventing suicide, and maintaining medical integrity. For the cryonicist patient’s right to pre-mortem preservation to prevail, the court must find legitimacy in the theory of cryonics.

Today, most view cryonics as mere science fiction, dramatized in feature films such as Vanilla Sky and Sleeper, and in the popular animated series Futurama. Cryonics is no more immune to criticism than any other “out there” theory that challenges mainstream thought and science. Just over a century ago, human air travel was viewed as science fiction. In fact, in 1908, Orville Wright himself wrote in a letter, “No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris. That seems to me to be impossible.” Less than twenty years later Charles Lindbergh did just that, flying over 3,500 miles non-stop from New York to Paris in 1927. Just 50 years ago, the thought of space travel existed only in the imaginative tales of science fiction authors like Jules Verne. Human space travel was thought impossible because it was thought that the human body could not survive the burst of acceleration needed to escape Earth’s gravitational pull. We all know how that turned out.

What about resurrecting the dead? Science fiction too? For centuries, the idea of resurrecting the dead was considered an absurd fantasy – even supernatural. But in the last 50 years, with the advent of CPR and the use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), it has become not only a reality, but also a regularity. Presently, humans are resuscitated from clinical death on a regular basis, and go on to live full, healthy lives. Today’s science fiction is tomorrow’s science reality. Cryonics is clearly in its early stages of growth, but recent developments indicate that it might be realized in this century. Scientists are already cryogenically preserving and reviving mammal organs and embryos. Cryonicists wholeheartedly believe these small steps are proof that it is possible – that future science will hold the capability of reanimating whole human beings. The first aircraft flew barely a hundred feet; now jets can circle the globe. Humans have been resuscitated after as long as three hours of clinical death. If it can be done after three hours, why not after 300 years? It is just a matter of time. Having considered both the national trend towards increased constitutional privacy protection and the substantial advancements in cryobiology and other supporting sciences, this note argues that courts should recognize a terminally-ill brain cancer patient’s constitutional right to receive assistance in achieving pre-mortem cryopreservation.

LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Ryan Sullivan | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Ryan Sullivan

Ryan Sullivan on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.