When Chinese 49-year-old Zhan Wenlian was declared clinically dead, after suffering lung cancer, her husband, Gui Junmin, decided to volunteer her body to be frozen cryogenically.
Grieving Gui Junmin hopes that future advances in Chinese science will someday revive the cryogenically frozen body of his clinically dead wife. His wife, Zhan Wenlian became the first subject to undergo a cryonic procedure in China. The science-fiction-esque procedure of freezing bodies with the hope for potential reanimation as been popular in the US for many decades. Additionally, almost 300 people globally have requested to undergo the cryonic process immediately upon doctors declaring them clinically dead. Already, Chinese author Du Hong had her brain cryonically preserved in 2015, by the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.
It was the Alcor Life Extension Foundation that worked in conjunction with the Yinfeng Biological Group at Qilu Hospital at Shandong University in Jinan, to facilitate the cryonic procedure on Wenlian. Scientists have stored her body head down in an enormous metallic chamber. They have filled this chamber with 2000 liters of liquid nitrogen, and Wenlian will remain in a state of stasis at 196 degrees celsius.
Putting love on ice, for science to thaw in the future
Wenlian’s husband, Junmin, hopes to one day also have scientists freeze him next to his wife. He does dream of an eventual reunion with her. He said “if my wife wakes up, she might be lonely. I need to keep her company.” Nevertheless, those undertaking the procedure have no promises for Junmin that someday someone will revive his wife. However, they do anticipate that future scientific advances could potentially enable that to happen.
Director of Yinfeng Biological Group, Jia Chusheng made this statement: “Zhan and her family are clear about the risks and that the procedure might ultimately fail. But as someone who has donated her body to science, she also gains hope of being revived one day.”
No guarantees of revival
Wenlian himself is not denying the uncertainty of the outcome of freezing his wife. Nevertheless, the couple has always believed in donating their body parts to science and shied away from alternatives such as cremation, as a way of dealing with a deceased loved one’s remains. Nevertheless, he still has faith that scientists will one day reanimate her: “I tend to believe in new and emerging technologies. So I think it will be entirely possible to revive her.”
The cost of the procedure is not cheap. According to the Chinese paper, Science and Technology Daily, cryonic preservation can cost upwards of USD 300,000. However, the foundation funded most of Wenlian’s procedure, as it is crucial for advancing their scientific inquiries. Nevertheless, with the Chinese belief in the importance of having a whole body in the afterlife, companies like the Cryonics Institute, and Alcor, are keen to offer their services in this market.
Skeptics of cryonics
Obviously like any hopeful scientific theory or idea, skeptics will rush to express their cynicism. Internationally renowned scientist, Michio Kaku one of those skeptics of cryonics. He believes it is scientifically impossible for anyone to ever to revive a frozen body. Kaku explains that frozen cells expand with water and die. He also scoffs that cryonics is a billionaires fantasy based on their own egos.
Max More, the director of Alcor, disputes Kaku and believes he is misinformed. More explains that cryonics is not out of the reach of most average citizens if they use life insurance. More then goes onto dispute Kaku’s claim that freezing bodies will kill the cells. He explains that damage from ice formation is minimal, and mostly occurs outside the cells. Furthermore, the process that scientists use in cryonics involves a specific type of antifreeze that they infuse into the body of the patient.
Faith in future science
Already scientists use similar techniques to freeze embryos, sperm, heart valves and human skin. More believes that science is evolving all the time. He sees the next step as scientists making advances on techniques that they already use every day. It might not happen in the next ten years. Proponents of cryonics feel highly confident that within even a century from now, scientists could feasibly revive cryogenically frozen bodies.