Department of Bioethics and Health Humanities Seminar
Cryopreservation: Hype or Hope?
Thursday, November 10, 2022
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Richard Gibson, PhD
Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities
Department of Bioethics & Health Humanities
School of Public and Population Health
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The specter of death stalks biological existence. Nevertheless, humanity continuously searches for ways to reject this inevitability. One of this desire’s most recent manifestations comes in the form of cryopreservation – the posthumous sub-zero storage of one’s body in the hopes that medical science discovers an eventual curative revival. While undoubtedly a science fiction staple, it’s an increasingly popular choice for those contemplating life’s end. However, tempering this popularity is the fact that post-cryopreservation revival is currently impossible. Given the associated practical uncertainties and principled objections, many doubt cryopreservation’s ethical, social, and legal justifiability. This lecture tackles three of cryopreservation’s most pressing bioethical questions. It first explores whether the cryopreserved are alive, dead, or something else and what this means for how external actors should treat them. It then problematizes the image employed by existing cryopreservation companies of a welcoming future society. Finally, it challenges the current economically-driven cryopreservation distribution model, suggesting the potential moral superiority of other methods. As more and more people spend more and more money on their dream of outwitting death, these questions, amongst numerous others, will only increase in saliency.