Update on the Alcor Legislation

Things were a little confusing there at the end of the work week with respect to the cryonics legislation in Arizona. A fair amount of maneuvering and argument is going on, at a pace too rapid for the developments to be presented to the community in a cogent fashion. Now that the weekend has arrived, Alcor has put together an update the past few days. A timeline for this entire process can also be found at the Alcor website.

It's worth mentioning that Aubrey de Grey (who seems to be everywhere at once these days) made an appearance at the hearings while he was in the US. His thoughts on this legislation follow:

Dear Rep. Aguirre,

I have just learned, to my very great surprise and consternation, that the Arizona House of Representatives will be considering bill HB2637 (embalmers; funeral establishments; storing remains) today (Thursday). I strongly urge you to vote "NO" to this bill, which is potentially a desirable piece of legislation but which in it current form will do untold harm to an industry that will play a huge part in the future of humanity and in which Arizona enjoys a unique leadership position. No other organisation in the world is remotely in Alcor's league in terms of the ability to lower human tissues to very low temperature without damage; hence, any legislation that hinders their work is a blow to this technology worldwide, whereas legislation that assists this industry by delineating appropriate regulation and oversight is potentially of great benefit. Your vote today is therefore of huge significance.

I am a research scientist working on the biology of mammalian aging at the University of Cambridge in England. My specific focus is on the development of techniques to repair and reverse the age-related degenerative changes that accumulate during life and eventually kill us. As you may recall, I travelled specially to Phoenix to testify to the House Health Committee on this matter on February 26th and was most gratified at the apparently universal appreciation by Committee members of the importance of Alcor's work, not only for current Alcor members but for the vast numbers of people who will undoubtedly opt for cryonic suspension in the period -- which is not far away -- when a genuine cure for aging is clearly foreseeable but not yet actually available. Depending on the pace of progress by me and my fellow gerontologists, you may well be among those people. If the pace is slower, your children may be. Either way, the work that Alcor is spearheading will very probably save tens of millions of lives. That is not an exaggeration.

For your convenience, I will summarise here the reasons I gave to the Health Committee why it is so imperative that Arizona get this piece of legislation right. Alcor preserves people in a state that is very similar, from a recoverability point of view, to someone who has been immersed in cold water for several minutes to an hour and whose heart has stopped for most of that time. Such people are clinically dead, which means that they could have been pronounced legally dead, but in fact they can in many cases be resuscitated. Thus, hundreds of people are walking around today in perfect health who have at some time in the past been clinically dead. Cryogenic preservation involves doing a modest amount of further damage to someone who has recently become clinically dead, but at the same time placing them in a state (very low temperature) in which no further deterioration can occur. Thus, in decades to come, when techniques to repair molecular and cellular damage to all tissues (including the brain) have been developed by me and my colleagues around the world, those same techniques will be applicable to people in cryonic suspension. The tissue damage that caused them to become clinically dead, plus the extra damage that was associated with suspoension, will be reversed and the individual will be restored to complete health.

It is therefore imperative that legislation which regulates cryonics be drafted in a manner that reflects the fact that cryonic patients are potentially resuscitatable, despite being clinically and legally dead. In the first instance, the use of the term "remains" in many places in the legislation is clearly unacceptable. "Remains" are what human bodies become when they are incontrovertibly beyond the reach of medical science, something which (as I have explained above) is not the case for cryonics patients. Secondly, it is absolutely essential that this legislation include a clear definition of what
cryonics is and an oversight structure that clearly distinguishes cryonics from embalming and other purely cosmetic procedures that are used to preserve (briefly) the appearance of bodies by actively eliminating the possibility of resuscitation, including provisions for becoming licensed as a cryonics provider. Third, the current legislation ignores the fact that Alcor and the Funeral Board have reached a clear accord with regard to the way in which cryonics should and should not be regulated, which can undoubtedly be translated into good legislation given the extra time that seemed, on February 26th, to have been permitted.

In summary, I strongly urge you to vote against HB2637 in its current inadequate form, and instead to work with the interested parties to craft appropriate legislation that will bring credit to Arizona and cement its leadership role in both the short-term (Kronos) and long term (Alcor) scientific battle against the ravages of old age.

Best wishes,

Dr. Aubrey D.N.J. de Grey

One important issue that came up is the importance of being polite when dealing with legislators, no matter how dishonorably or dangerously they are behaving. From the Alcor CEO:

At that point, not knowing Representative Stump's intentions we felt that we had no other alternative but to oppose the bill on the floor. We began contacting our members via e-mail and phone, requesting that they contact members of the House of Representatives and urge them to vote NO on HB2637. Although I specifically requested our membership to be respectful in their tone when contacting members of the legislature, a few members decided not to heed that advice.

I cannot over-emphasize how much the negative communication to legislators hurt our cause on Thursday. It is simply unacceptable to impugn the integrity of a member of the legislature no matter how passionate you may feel about an issue. Our responsibility as citizens is to respectfully and briefly state our position, explain why the proposed legislation should be defeated, and thank the legislators for considering our interests. Personal attacks against a respected member of the legislature are a sure way to quickly lose support, as we saw on Thursday. If you don't feel you can calmly and respectfully state your case, then you should not contact members of the legislature at all. Alcor once again owes Representative Stump an apology for the unwarranted actions of a few.

This is an unfortunate consequence of giving politicians power without any immediate checks to the way in which they use this power. Voting for office holders every few years, especially in this age of incumbent protection, is simply not enough. Politicians can behave as badly as they like in the short term, but we must bow and scrape in order to prevent them from damaging our businesses and lives.

So be polite, folks, even if you have to grit your teeth in order to do so.

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