The Case for Whole-Body

Cryonics, February 2014

Michael B. O’Neal, Ph.D. and Aschwin de Wolf

[This is an expanded revision of an article that originally appeared in Cryonics, July 1990; this web edition also slightly revised June 2014.]


This article presents a number of reasons for preferring whole body cryopreservations over neuro cryopreservations. For those of you who may be new to cryonics, a whole body cryopreservation, as the name implies, involves the cryopreservation and long-term care of the entire patient. Neuro cryopreservations are similar to whole body, with the exception that only the patient’s brain (encased within the cranium, that is to say, normally the whole head) is placed in long term care.

The intent of this article is not to dispute the validity of neuro cryopreservations. The authors believe that a neuro cryopreservation is certainly immensely preferable to no cryopreservation at all and we fully support Alcor’s policy of conversion of whole body patients to neuro cryopreservation in emergency situations.

We are disturbed, however, by the ease with which many Alcor members seem to reach the conclusion that full body cryopreservation is simply a waste of liquid nitrogen and money. Of Alcor’s nearly 1,000 members approximately one half are whole bodies and one half are “neuros” [1]. Even allowing for the economics of the situation, we find it surprising that such a large percentage of Alcor members choose the neuro option [2]. Each of us must decide for ourselves whether the additional cost of a full body cryopreservation is justified by the perceived benefits. Any informed decision can only be made after careful consideration of the benefits and costs of each option. The Alcor publication: “Neuropreservation: Advantages and Disadvantages” [2] attempted to do just this. The authors of that article, however, seem to be biased in favor of the neuro option. As evidence of this conclusion we would point out that of the 17 paragraphs in the document only 4 seem to present advantages of the whole body approach (paragraphs: 1, 9, 14, 17). To be fair, articles have appeared in this and other publications [3] which favor the whole body approach. Even Mike Darwin’s excellent pro neuro cryopreservation article, “But What Will the Neighbors Think?!” [4], devotes substantial space to a balanced treatment of the questions surrounding neuro cryopreservation.

Merkle’s Wager Revised

Before discussing specific technical and social arguments, there is one abstract argument that can be made in favor of whole body cryopreservation that follows the same logic as Ralph Merkle’s restatement of Pascal’s wager in approaching cryonics. But instead of applying his argument to the rationality of choosing cryonics, we will apply it to the forms of cryopreservation being offered.

This exercise requires us to make a number of assumptions. We need to assume that cryopreservation is conducted under optimal conditions for both cryopreservation options and that there are no other obstacles (e.g., logistical or legal) to resuscitation. The focus here is on how much information preservation is required for complete survival of the person. As can be seen in the table below, whole body cryopreservation will lead to complete survival for the simple reason that it is the most comprehensive cryopreservation option available—at least as it pertains to the person as a physiological being. In the case of neuropreservation, only the brain (usually contained in the head) is preserved. Regardless of how much information we need to preserve, the person who has made whole body arrangements will do fine. In the case of neuropreservation, the reductionist argument about the brain sufficiently encoding identity must be correct to achieve the same outcome as whole body cryopreservation.

Is Sufficient
Is Insufficient
Complete Survival
Incomplete Survival
Whole Body
Complete Survival
Complete Survival

Now, what if we would relax our assumptions a little and allow for some degree of ischemia or brain damage during cryopreservation? It strikes us that this further strengthens the case for whole body cryopreservation because the rest of the body could be used to infer information about the non-damaged state of the brain, an option not available to neuropatients.

Whole Body Cryopreservation and Identity

First, it is by no means clear that the body does not contain information critical to the revival of the person. We do not mean by this statement that we reject the fact that the human brain holds a person’s mind and personality. What we do mean is that reconstruction of the person as they were immediately prior to cryopreservation may be very difficult, or impossible, without the body.

Most everyone agrees that DNA does not completely specify a person. The argument of those who have selected neuro cryopreservation seems to be that DNA plus the information contained in the brain does specify all of the important aspects the person. But can we really be completely sure of this?

Let us consider the case of identical twins—naturally occurring clones. Since they developed from the same original cell, their DNA sequences are identical. However, twins are not exactly the same. For example, they are not always the same height and they do not have the same fingerprints. Some of these differences, such as height, may be directly attributed to environmental factors such as nutrition and health care. Other characteristics, such as fingerprints, seem less related to environmental factors and suggest that DNA programming may only specify general patterns, with the specifics arrived at in some other fashion. In fact, in recent years the study of epigenetics, which looks at how genes are switched off and on by environmental and other factors and can explain at least some of the differences in the way twins develop, has become a major research focus. Regardless of how these differences arise, it should be clear that a person’s physical characteristics are not fully determined from DNA alone.

“So, what is the point?” you might ask. “Surely all of my memories plus an almost identical body would still be me.” Perhaps. But what if the details of the central nervous system are not fully specified in the DNA programming?

The typical scenario for reviving a person cryopreserved using today’s primitive technology involves reconstructing the person using cell by cell (or molecule by molecule) repair techniques. If whole body procedures were used, the person’s entire central nervous system would be preserved. This preservation would not be perfect. There would be damage, perhaps even fractures to the spinal cord. It has been suggested [2, page 3] that because of the likelihood of these fractures there is little reason to prefer a whole body cryopreservation. This argument ignores the fact that repair of a damaged system, even a spinal cord, is likely to be much less complex, and more accurate to the original, than an unguided reconstruction based on DNA alone.

This leads us to conclude that without the original body to serve as a guide, it may not be possible to smoothly “interface” the neuropatient to a (re-grown) body. As mentioned above, the fact that “identical” twins (naturally occurring clones who share the same DNA) are not, in fact, identical proves that DNA does not fully specify our physical form. Thus it is at least plausible to postulate that the differences between our original bodies and cloned bodies may complicate the process of integrating a neuropatient’s existing brain and head to a newly cloned body. Even if an approximation of the original connections can be designed, the new body may not “feel” right due to the subtle differences that are sure to exist between the original body and a re-grown one.

Of course we are not claiming that a revived neuropatient wouldn’t be the same person if he or she were integrated with a cloned body. After all individuals, such as Christopher Reeves, can survive as the same person for many years after injuries that deprive them of use of their bodies—but no one would claim that these individuals’ lives aren’t dramatically changed by such incidents. Similarly, skills may have to be relearned by neuro patients after resuscitation. For individuals such as athletes and musicians, where exceptional physical abilities comprise a significant portion of their self-identities, relearning these skills could be tremendously frustrating. Even those of us who are far less physically talented may find relearning how to type, fly fish, ride a bike, or even walk, quite annoying.

Our second point is that the existence of the body may help reduce personality and memory loss caused by a less than perfect cryopreservation.

The physical characteristics of our bodies strongly influence who we are. Our actions also strongly influence the condition of our bodies. We can think of our bodies as a crude physical backup of lifestyle choices, and hence personality. Careful examination of our bodies can reveal the answers to many questions, such as: Did we lead a sedentary life or were we physically active? What kind of diet did we consume? What kind of physical accidents and ailments did we suffer from? What led to clinical death and how old were we when clinical death occurred?

Modern anthropologists can infer much about the lives of our ancestors, and answer many such questions, working only from the clues available from our ancestors’ skeletons. How much more information could be gleaned by future experts working with advanced technology and well preserved bodies?

Many people in the cryonics movement have pointed out the need to keep records and memorabilia to back up crucial memories. While this is certainly a good idea, it should be pointed out that information of this type cannot entirely replace the information stored in our bodies, since there is always the chance that our bodies contain important information that we are unaware of. For example, a person may suffer from an undiagnosed medical condition that greatly impacts his or her life. Complete molecular preservation of the body by definition gives us the most complete information about the history of our body and its interaction with the brain, regardless of our current level of understanding.

Recently, research has been conducted to understand the “microbiome” and the alleged interaction between gut bacteria and the brain. One does not need to believe that the microbiome is part of the (peripheral) nervous system to recognize that its preservation (and gut bacteria in particular) may provide clues about the brain, (past) mental states, and could be useful to resolve ambiguous brain repair challenges.

One could argue that in the vast majority of cases most information available from an examination of the body would be known to the person and therefore be available in the patient’s brain. Even if some memories are apparently destroyed by a poor cryopreservation, many traces of them may remain. Surely, during patient reconstruction, these partial memories will be discovered and enhanced, making whatever personality / lifestyle information that may be contained in the body redundant.

This argument overlooks the very real possibility that technologies to repair a patient’s brain may be developed that do not require or provide an understanding of the personality and memory information contained in that patient’s brain. This is a very important point. Reconstruction and repair of a brain does not necessarily imply access to the memories it contains.

Perhaps the best way to understand why this is true is to look at “neural net” computers. The connectionist machine or neural network is composed of a large number of simple processing elements that are highly interconnected. These elements are modeled after biological neurons, the basic components of the human brain. Information in such systems is not stored in discrete locations, as is the case in conventional computers, but instead is stored as weighted connections between large numbers of processing elements (i.e., nodes). Machines of this type are often trained to recognize and classify particular patterns.

We can imagine a neural net where the connections between nodes are represented as electrical currents that flow through wires. Our particular machine has been in storage for a long time. When it was being placed into storage some of the wires came loose from their connections. We may repair the machine by reconnecting the wires to their proper connections (assuming we can tell where the loose wires belong). After completing these repairs we should have a fully functioning machine. Of course, we have no idea what patterns it has been trained to recognize. It would, in fact, be very difficult to try to determine what the machine knows without turning it on, since its knowledge exists only as connections between nodes.

The parallels with repair of a human brain after cryopreservation are clear. Just because we can repair a brain does not mean we will understand the person contained in that brain. The point of all of this is that it is unreasonable to expect that during repair memory traces from a damaged brain will be automatically detected and enhanced. Instead, the availability of the original body may prove invaluable in helping the person to reconstruct his or her life by providing a familiar physical environment to ease the transition into resuscitation and by providing physical reminders of memories which may have been partially lost.

Subjectivism and Identity

Alcor members who have made neuropreservation arrangements are often perplexed by the choice to make whole body arrangements. “Surely, a technology that is powerful enough to repair the damage associated with the cryopreservation process should be able to grow a new rejuvenated body.” In turn, the advocate of whole body cryopreservation rejects such reductionism of identity to the brain and points out that the body is also part of one’s identity and that it should be possible to rejuvenate and enhance one’s existing body. Who’s right? The problem with this question is that it assumes that questions about identity have objective answers and that ultimately this argument will be settled in favor of neuro or whole body cryopreservation.

We believe that this whole framework of looking at the issue may rest on the mistake that identity is an objective property of a person and excludes subjective preferences. To illustrate this point, let’s compare an ascetic philosopher whose life completely revolves around abstract ideas and a professional body builder whose living and passion depends on the exact shape of his body. The philosopher may even abhor his body and would not be interested in its continued existence if technology permits. The body builder, on the other hand, is quite keen on preserving his body exactly in the state it is and hopes to resume some advanced form of bodybuilding after resuscitation. In this example identity, self-image, and preferences are closely linked and no objective theory of identity is going to render a clear verdict on who is thinking “correctly” about identity.

It is easy to see how issues concerning identity, self-image, preference, and survival can confuse matters. For example, people who have lost their limbs or lower part of the body, and still lead meaningful lives, are often used as “proof” that preserving the brain is sufficient for identity. But such an example is more testament to our instinct for survival and the resolve to live life at its fullest despite trauma or disease. It does not mean that such people do not regret having lost these faculties and would not want them back if possible. Identity can be lost, restored, and created. In a sense, identity involves decisions we make and is not fixed.

It is also important here to note that some contemporary thinkers are moving away from the idea that identity (or the mind) is confined to the skin and skull. Increasingly, we store vast amounts of personal information that is important, or even essential, to our functioning as a person outside ourselves. This position is called “the extended mind.” It is not some vague spiritual notion about the mind but recognizes the role of external objects in the functioning of our mind and identity. Looking at the issue of identity preservation from this perspective makes even the whole body option look limited because it does not take into account all the external objects and information outside of us that have become part of our person and self-image. For example, a Facebook account can be considered part of one’s identity and it is not realistic to remember everything that one posted, liked, and shared. So it is not part of one’s brain or body but it can be considered a part of one’s identity and life history. We should not be surprised, then, that an increasing number of Alcor members are paying more attention to saving information and objects in addition to their own brain or body.

Of course, in case that the brain is so severely damaged that the body might contain some kind of clues of its original state, this kind of subjectivism does not apply. Preservation of the whole body would simply provide more information about the brain.

Quality of Preservation

One of the most persuasive arguments in favor of neuropreservation is that this option will produce a better cryopreservation. The reasoning here is that when the cryonics organization can exclusively focus on the brain (or just the head) a better outcome will result. Perfusion times are shorter, (abdominal) edema does not present a challenge, and, in the case of isolated head perfusion, better venous return of the cryoprotectant is possible.

A rejoinder to this argument is that one does not need to choose neuropreservation to receive these advantages. One could preferentially cryopreserve the isolated head and after this procedure cryopreserve the rest of the body. In fact, as of this writing, the default procedure at the Cryonics Institute is to perform cryoprotective perfusion with a vitrification agent for the upper body and give the rest of the body a straight freeze. At Alcor it is possible to execute a contract that provides for separate cryopreservation of the head and the body. So it is not accurate to say that one needs to exclude the cryopreservation of the body to get a superior cryopreservation.

Although it is indisputable that isolated head perfusion reduces cryoprotectant exposure time and accelerates cooling, it should be kept in mind that the (alleged) superiority of neuropreservation only holds when cryoprotection procedures remain sub-optimal. If ischemia is minimized and a cryoprotectant was developed that was non-toxic, issues such as exposure time would be less relevant. When you make cryopreservation arrangements you do not just need to assess the technology available at the present time but also consider technological advantages in the future. It should also be stressed that as more people choose whole body cryopreservation cryonics organizations have a greater incentive to perfect this procedure.

We should also mention that it is possible to get the (alleged) technical advantages of neuropreservation without the bad PR (see below) associated with this procedure if one would just preserve the brain. Whereas many people are repulsed by images of isolated heads, the sight of an isolated brain is relatively common in the media and popular science. Brain preservation reduces long-term costs even more than neuropreservation. We suspect that many people would feel more comfortable with a cryonics organization offering brain preservation than with a cryonics organization offering neuropreservation.

Public Perception of Neuropreservation

Cryonics is a radical concept. As a group we would do well to consider the fact that no individual or organization can survive in isolation. We need the cooperation of others—doctors, lawyers, pharmaceutical companies, liquid nitrogen suppliers… the list is almost endless. Without these people, we are already dead. The concept of neuro cryopreservation is even more radical than the idea of whole body cryopreservation. Decapitation has historically been associated with death, not life, and thus can elicit a very strong emotional reaction. This seems to characterize one of the author’s [O’Neal’s] family’s views of cryonics. Most of his family does not object to the idea of his being cryopreserved at death. In fact, his sister has agreed to be the executor of his estate. The family’s biggest concern was that he would choose the whole body option. Most of O’Neal’s family members, like the vast majority of “reasonable” people, believe that it will never be possible to restore a person from a “frozen head,” and find the notion extremely repulsive. Note use of the word “believe” in the previous sentence. The scenarios generally envisioned for the restoration of neuropatients have been described to O’Neal’s family members in some detail, including the apparent necessity of nanotechnology to restore both whole body and neuropatients cryopreserved under today’s imperfect conditions. They seem to intellectually understand the arguments, but at some deep emotional level they still don’t “believe” it will ever be possible to restore a patient from neuro cryopreservation. At some point it seems that the energy devoted to trying to convince individuals that neuro cryopreservation is reasonable would be better spent first securing buy-in from a larger segment of the population that the underlying concept of cryopreservation itself is reasonable.

The importance of having the support, or at least acceptance, of family and friends concerning our desire for cryopreservation should not be underestimated. There are situations in which hostility towards cryonics by family members has led to substantial delays in the application of stabilization and cryopreservation protocols, and some members have even failed to enter cryopreservation at all due to the objection of family members. Members may be wise to consider whether choosing the whole body option could help ameliorate any resistance that may exist within their own families, as this could have a direct impact on their own cryopreservation.

It is also important to carefully consider the negative PR that can result from cryopreservations involving removal of the patient’s head, regardless of whether the body is stored or discarded. A relatively recent example of such negative PR is the controversy surrounding the cryopreservation of baseball player Ted Williams that followed from the publication of Larry Johnson’s book Frozen. It is, of course, difficult to precisely quantify what damage, if any, Alcor experienced as a result of this episode. The authors do note that membership growth at Alcor has slowed dramatically in recent years. One could argue that the negative PR surrounding unfounded allegations about “disrespectful” treatment of William’s remains—specifically his head—may be a contributing factor to reduced membership growth.

The authors’ personal beliefs are that Alcor, and the entire cryonics movement, would be better served if future members were more strongly encouraged to consider the advantages of full body cryopreservations. Given the obviously deep rooted resistance to neuropreservation, why should we throw another psychological roadblock in our path? Cryonics is a hard sell as it is and expecting people to embrace the conceptual argument in favor of cryonics and also not have a visceral response to the idea of neuropreservation (and Alcor’s isolated head perfusion procedure in particular) makes things unnecessarily difficult. In fact, if a person’s first exposure to cryonics is through a sensationalist account of a neuropreservation case a substantial number of them will no longer be in the right mindset for a dispassionate examination of the cryonics argument.

One logistical/safety argument in favor of neuropreservation is that the much smaller volume and storage container will make transfer of the patient easier in an emergency situation (such as a natural disaster). It is undeniable that it is easier to move a neuropatient (let alone an isolated brain) but this is a double-edged sword because this also means that it easier to remove or steal a patient. Past experience is not a good indicator which scenario is more likely to occur in the future.

The issue of paramount concern for each of us as individuals is to be cryopreserved at clinical death, and for cryonicists as a group is to increase public acceptance of cryonics—ultimately leading to the establishment of the right to choose cryopreservation as an elective medical procedure for critically ill patients. Once the public and the law acknowledge our right to cryopreservation, then recognition of neuro cryopreservations as a valid option will be much easier. Neuro cryopreservations could be presented as an intelligent fallback position, to be used under circumstances that preclude whole body cryopreservations, rather than as a primary option.

Whole Body Cryopreservation, Suspended Animation, and Medicine

Ultimately, the aim of a credible cryonics organization should be to perfect the cryopreservation process. If we can offer true human suspended animation, all arguments about the cryopreservation process itself causing damage will no longer be relevant in assessing the feasibility of cryonics. If we can place critically ill patients in suspended animation, the “only” challenge is to develop a cure for their disease (and, in most cases, rejuvenate them).

It is our belief that as cryopreservation techniques approach the level of true human suspended animation (no ice formation, no cryoprotectant toxicity, no fracturing, etc.), the decision to retain only the head and to discard the rest of the body will appear increasingly strange. It is unlikely that mainstream medicine will choose to adopt neuropreservation once reversible whole body cryopreservation has been achieved—at least not until ALL of the issues related to revival of neuro patients (e.g., growing a new body and integrating the patient with that body) have been fully and reliably solved. Until that level of advanced technology is achieved, the concept of “do no harm” will almost certainly yield a decision to practice cryonics in its whole body form. Even given that technology for reviving neuro patients, neuropreservation may continue to be eschewed by mainstream medicine based on the concept of avoiding any unnecessary risk to the patient or the view that neuropreservation does not constitute a “respectful’ treatment of the patient.

This brings up another argument in favor of choosing whole body cryopreservation. The more popular whole body cryopreservation becomes, the more Alcor can claim to not just serve its own members but to be involved in developing human suspended animation, which may have many other applications such as long-distance space travel, military medicine, and perhaps even as an alternative for the death penalty.

Neuropatients Have No Fallback Option

Another point we’d like to make in this section is that whole body patients have a fallback position that neuro patients do not. One of the primary reasons that whole body cryopreservation is more expensive than neuro cryopreservation is that substantially more money is set aside for long term care of whole body patients than for neuro patients [3]. The rationale for this is straightforward: whole body patients require more physical space inside the storage dewars and more liquid nitrogen for cooling than do neuro patients—they simply cost more to maintain.

While Alcor is very conservative in the financial assumptions used to calculate the amount of money set aside for long term patient care—assuming only an annual 2% real return on investments (return after accounting for inflation), it is always possible that these assumptions may prove to be too optimistic. For neuro patients there are few options for lower cost storage. Whole body patients, on the other hand, could always be converted to the less costly to maintain neuro state, should long term patient care funding prove inadequate to meet the actual costs incurred. In fact, Alcor cryopreservation contracts have always included a conversion to neuro provision for members selecting the whole body option.

Most Alcor officials agree that, in light of the possibility that one might want to switch from neuro to whole body arrangements in the future, it is wiser to get coverage sufficient for whole body cryopreservation. A welcome consequence of this is that if long-term cryopreservation and resuscitation turn out more expensive than anticipated, the member would not immediately drop below the amount required for long-term care and resuscitation.

Practical Considerations

As mentioned in the previous section, whole body cryopreservation is substantially more expensive than neuro preservation. Currently (January 2014) Alcor charges a minimum of $80,000 for a neuro cryopreservation and $200,000 for a whole body cryopreservation. And these minimums are likely to increase in the future.

While most members fund their cryonics arrangement via life insurance, the cost of a whole body cryopreservation— equivalent to the cost of a middle / upper middle class home in many parts of the country—is substantial. As time passes and members age, the minimum cost of (whole body) cryopreservation generally increases, while the insurability of members tends to decrease—making cryopreservation expensive for the sick and elderly, and whole body cryopreservation unaffordable for many. One of the authors, O’Neal, has encouraged Alcor to consider a number of changes to increase the affordability of whole body cryopreservations. These include: (1) allowing greater flexibility in funding options beyond life insurance and irrevocable trusts, such as bequests; and (2) adopting less conservative assumptions on the rate of return for whole body long term patient care funds compared to long term patient funds for neuro patients.

An advantage of including cryopreservation funding in a will is that, after clinical death, a member no longer has need of a house, car, or other assets. Some older members who may have substantial real assets but live on limited incomes and are no longer insurable would probably welcome the option of paying for part of their cryopreservation minimums via a bequest.

The problem with wills, of course, is that they can be easily changed by a member—often up to the moment of clinical death. Even after a member is declared legally dead, his or her will can be contested. The end result is that the money for the member’s cryopreservation is not “guaranteed” in the sense that life insurance proceeds are. Since cryopreservation is an expensive undertaking and the existing organizations are relatively small they simply cannot bear the risk associated with performing cryopreservation procedures in which payment is questionable.

However, there is a middle ground that dramatically reduces risk for the cryonics provider while enabling members to cover (part of) their cryopreservation minimums via a bequest. Essentially, the upfront costs of patient stabilization, transport, cryoprotective perfusion, and cool down could be paid via a guaranteed mechanism—insurance policy, prepayment, irrevocable trust, etc.—while the long term patient care funding (over one half the cost of a whole body cryopreservation) could be provided via a bequest. Thus, a whole body patient could be cryopreserved with little or no financial risk to the cryonics organization as long as funds sufficient for neuro cryopreservation (including long term care), plus a small additional amount to cover possible conversion from whole body to neuro, were provided by insurance, trust, or some other guaranteed means. If the additional funding required for long term whole body patient care, funded via a will or other means, were to fail to appear in a reasonable period of time the patient could simply be converted to a fully funded neuro patient.

Another potential approach for making whole body cryopreservation more affordable would be to adopt less conservative investment return projections. Instead of assuming a very low risk 2% rate of return, projecting a 4% or 5% return while adopting somewhat more aggressive investment strategies might be a reasonable strategy given the fact that whole body patients can always be converted to neuro patients should the projected rates of return fail to materialize.

Given that neuro patients do not have the luxury of a fallback position, it is critical that investments for neuros meet or exceed expectations. Because whole body patients do have the conversion to neuro option, failure to meet projected returns on investments would have far less dramatic consequences. If whole body patients’ investments underperform, once a certain minimum level of funds is reached, they could be converted to fully funded neuro patients—no worse off than the other neuro patients and no financial burden on the system. Since every whole body member has already agreed to neuro conversion, no change to the existing (or past) cryopreservation agreements would be needed to implement such a policy.


The authors have presented an “abstract” Merkle’s Wager style argument and two technical arguments for preferring whole body cryopreservations to neuro cryopreservations. The first argument described a theory that information contained in the brain and DNA is necessarily incomplete and that the information loss incurred from disposal of the majority of the body may be critical. The second argument postulated that in cases of memory loss, the existence of the body might act as a crude type of memory backup and trigger recall of partial memories that might otherwise be lost.

Five additional non-technical/social arguments were presented. First, in some cases, selection of the whole body option may increase the level of acceptance of cryonics by friends and family members—which could have a direct effect on the likelihood that a member will receive a smooth and rapid cryopreservation—and decrease the chances that his or her wishes concerning cryopreservation will be contested by antagonistic family members. Second, whole body cryopreservations appear less likely to generate the kinds of sensational news coverage which can lead to potentially damaging PR as was the case with Ted Williams (and much earlier Dora Kent [6]). Third, whole body patients have a backup plan that neuro patients do not, in that whole body patients can always be converted to neuros if the funds to support long term patient storage ever prove insufficient. Fourth, as Alcor’s cryopreservation procedures begin to approach the level of reversible human suspended animation, whole body cryopreservation will most likely become the procedure of choice in mainstream medicine. Fifth, the issue of identity has a subjective component and what may be important to one person (preserving one’s body) may not be important to others.

The cost differential between whole body cryopreservation and neuro preservation was discussed and a number of approaches that Alcor might adopt to help make cryopreservation, especially whole body cryopreservation, more affordable were presented.

In the final analysis each of us must weigh the costs and benefits of both approaches. For the authors, the potential benefits of a whole body cryopreservation far outweigh the additional costs. We find whole body cryopreservations to be the most conservative form of cryopreservation. The procedure is conservative in a technical sense since it retains the maximum amount of information concerning the patient by storing the patient’s body. The whole body procedure is also conservative in the social sense as it avoids the negative perceptions associated with decapitation and seems far more “reasonable” to the general public than neuro preservation. Whole body cryopreservations are also more conservative than neuro preservations in that whole body patients always have conversion to neuro as a fall back option in times of financial or other difficulties.


1. As of December 2013, there were 971 Alcor members. Of these 482 were whole body members (49.6%), 449 were neuro cryopreservation members (46.2%), 26 were “neuro with whole body” (2.7%), and 14 were “open option” (1.4%) — Alcor Membership Report, December 2013.

2. It should be noted that during the 24 years that have elapsed between the original version of this paper and its revision the percentage of Alcor whole body members has actually increased. In 1990 two thirds of Alcor members were neuro cryopreservation members. Today the numbers of Alcor whole body and neuro members are roughly equal.

3. As of January 2014, $25,000 is set aside for neuro patient long term care versus $115,000 for whole body patient long term care [5].


[1] “The Alcor Survey 1988-9 (Part I)” by Max O’Connor and Mike Perry, in Cryonics, Vol 10(9), September 1989, page 42.

[2] “Neuropreservation: Advantages and Disadvantages,” Alcor publication NEUROPRE 9-88.

[3] “The Neuropreservation Controversy” by Paul Segall, in The American Cryonics Society Journal Vol 5(2), March 1988, pages 4-5.

[4] “But What Will the Neighbors Think?!: A Discourse on the History and Rationale of Neurosuspension” by Mike Darwin, in Cryonics, Vol 9(10), October 1988, pages 40-55.

[5] “Alcor Cryopreservation Agreement – Schedule A: Required Costs and Cryopreservation Fund Minimums.”

[6] “A Timeline on the Events Surrounding the Cryonic Suspension of Dora Kent” in Cryonics, 9(1), January 1988, pages 1-7.