Juan Masia, SJ (Sophia University)
On July 8, 2002, many people were shocked by the news about the attempt to freeze the corpse of Ted Williams. This famous baseball player from the Boston Red Sox team, died at the age of 83. He was one of the greatest hitters of all time and the last Major League Baseball player to hit better than 400 for a season. A few days after his death macabre reports indicated that the corpse of Williams had been sent to a cryogenic warehouse in Arizona.
The eldest daughter told Boston TV station that her half-brother, John Henry Williams, had sent her father's corpse to the Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Arizona, hoping the family could make a lot of money later on by selling its genetic make-up or by using its cells for cloning.
"My brother, she said, thinks that we can sell Dad's DNA, and people will buy that because they'd love to have many little copies of Ted Williams." She said she is planning to go to court to prevent her father's body from being frozen. According to her, her father wanted to be cremated.

Cryonics vs. cryobiology
The Ted Williams story has succeeded in getting a lot of people talking about cryonics. The term cryonics refers to the practice of freezing dead human bodies or even just their separated heads in the hope of scientific advances that would allow for continued life at a later time. There are two cryonic facilities in the United States, one in Arizona, and another one in Michigan. There is also an association called "Life Extension Society," which promotes cryonics.
This movement maintains that a frozen corpse, or simply a head, could one day be resuscitated using future technologies. When a member of one of those organizations dies, they send the corpse to the laboratories of the institution, and replace the blood with anticoagulants. Then the corpse is frozen in liquid nitrogen at temperatures about 320 degrees below zero.
This process, of course, costs quite a great amount of money. They pay about $120,000 for a full-body freezing and storage or $50,000 for the head only. It has been reported that about 90 corpses have already been frozen, and about 1,000 people have signed up, asking to be frozen after their death.
The publication in 1964 of "The Prospect of Immortality," a book by Cryonics Institute President Robert Ettinger, was the landmark for the beginning of the cryonics movement. But most serious scientists consider this movement as science fiction.
This movement should not be mistaken for the Society of Cryobiology (scientists studying techniques for tissue and organ freezing, and researching how freezing temperatures affect biological systems). These scientists do not accept "cryonics" as a true science. While cryobiology offers convincing reasons for freezing cells, organs and tissues, cryonics is nothing more than a narrow-minded attempt to modify our human cycle of life and death.

Basic questions
After listening to these news last July I thought about the following questions concerning our view on life:

1. Cost. Why to go on with this expensive and useless process while the basic needs of many living people are not met? Companies can market almost everything but, is it all right to go on along this line of commercialization of life and death?

2. Manipulation of life and death. Why should technology dictate that everything that can be done should be done?

3. Unlimited expectations. Are we increasing the frustrations of people by increasing exaggerated expectations about the reduction of suffering or the possibilities of prolonging life?

4. Exaggerated self-determination. Is it reasonable to stress without limitations the idea that individuals can do whatever they wish with their bodies, or with their corpses?

5. Views on life and death. Are we aware that the mere fact of making these techniques available provokes changes in the way we feel about life and death? Are we not becoming inhuman by forgetting human mortality and by dreaming about a wrong way of immortality, more precisely, about a "pseudo-immortality"?
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