38 Hours

According to the Alcor report, that’s how long Hal Finney was breathing spontaneously after his ventilator was removed and before he took his last breaths, was declared legally dead, and could begin cryopreservation procedures.

Let’s try to evaluate this from a more detached perspective. Mr Finney had such advanced ALS that he couldn’t communicate. His friends and family had said their goodbyes. There was essentially no hope of a cure for him at this stage. According to all medical providers present, he was probably not conscious. Surely everyone present knew that the objective was for him to stop breathing and begin what, according to his incredibly supportive partner, he considered “Plan B” — cryonic preservation. There was seemingly no reason to wait. Perfusion and cooldown could have begun much earlier and may have led to a better outcome.

And yet, from a medicolegal perspective, this was totally not allowed.

Instead, he was forced to lie there for 38 hours breathing intermittently in the hospice bed. I don’t want to speculate on his exact case, not knowing the details, but in similar cases, it is likely that individuals would have experienced agonal respirations and associated brain hypoxia, that could make preservation of personal identity more perilous.

Let me be perfectly clear: I think it is right that the hospice workers and the Alcor staff and everyone present followed the law. I’m not advocating breaking the law and those involved, who were doing a great service, certainly shouldn’t feel guilty about not doing so. But, the law needs to change. This doesn’t make sense.

Some sort of “physician assisted cryocide“, e.g. via a general anesthetic, could have prevented any damage that may have occurred during this peri-agonal period.

I have nothing but respect for Mr Finney. And that is what saddens me so about these 38 hours.

38 Hours