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Thursday, 19 September, 2002, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
Lucky winner 'could cheat death'
Cryonics Institute
The Cryonics Institute will preserve the bodies
A science magazine is offering one reader the chance to have their body frozen after death in the hope that medical science will one day revive them.

Leading researchers have pooh-poohed the concept of "cryonics", in which the whole body, or even just the head of a dead person, is plunged into liquid nitrogen and put in a storage tank.

However, this has not prevented a steady stream of rich volunteers prepared to pay thousands of dollars to book their place in the freezer.

The theory is that the deep-frozen tissue could be thawed out many decades from now when medicine has worked out a way to cure whatever was the cause of death.

However, most experts believe that the freezing process itself causes so much damage to cells that revival is made impossible.

Icy prize

But this has not stopped New Scientist magazine organising a competition with free cryonic preservation as the prize.

when you're dead, you're dead

Professor Steve Jones, University College London
The winner would be taken upon their death to the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, US, treated with chemicals to make the freezing process less damaging, then immersed in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of minus 196 degrees Celsius.

The competition small print promises to "heal and revive" the winner's corpse when and if medical technology allows.

Normally this process would cost approximately 28,000.


Chrisse de Rivaz, chairperson of Cryonics Europe - and planning to have her own body frozen when the time comes - is understandably enthusiastic about the prospect.

She told the Today programme: "We're all very excited by it and we hope it will increase public awareness of cryonics. It's a very good prize."

However, Professor Steve Jones, a genetics expert from University College London, told the programme: "There's a lot of misunderstanding over this - cells have been frozen and revived, as have smaller items such as sperm and eggs, but the fact is, when you're dead, you're dead.

"Your brain doesn't work, your cells change instantly - there are all sorts of macabre evidence of what a one-way street it is."

He added: "The idea of immortality is much older - I pass by the stuffed body of my college's founder every morning on the way to my office. That's a lot cheaper."

However, there is a way for a doubting competition winner to cash in in this life: there is the option of a Hawaiian holiday instead.

Chairperson of Cryonics Europe Chrisse de Rivaz
"We hope this is going to increase public awareness of cryonics"
Genetics expert professor Steve Jones
"When you're dead, you're dead"
Which would you choose?

Freeze my body

Take me to Hawaii

3204 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

12 Apr 01 | Europe
26 Feb 02 | Europe
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