On Saturday July 7, 2012, the Institute for Evidence Based Cryonics and Cryonics Northwest will organize a symposium on cryonics and brain-threatening disorders in Portland, Oregon. The symposium will start at 09:00 am at the offices of Kaos Softwear. Entrance to the event is free.
Some background is provided in another post at the Institute website:
Conventional wisdom in life extension circles is that making cryonics arrangements allows one to benefit from rejuvenation technologies that are not available during one's existing lifespan. Aside from the risk of high-impact accidents or getting lost at sea, there is one challenge that some cryonicists will face when they grow older; the debilitating consequences of brain-threatening disorders.
One of the unfortunate effects of the increase in human lifespan is a corresponding increase in late-onset identity-destroying brain disorders. We know that some patients at the existing cryonics organizations were cryopreserved after advanced Alzheimer's disease. Some cryonics organization members who developed Alzheimer's disease were not preserved at all, due to lapsed insurance and/or cryopreservation arrangements.
The main challenges and risks associated with low-temperature preservation of the brain after death relate to (a) overbearing regulation that prevents sensible end of life decisions and increases risk of a poor preservation, and (b) your removal from the scene as a willful actor, capable of defending your own interests. Neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's are a special case of point (b) - you are still alive, but become incapable of monitoring affairs to ensure that the course of action you desire is carried out.
All the data of your mind may still be largely intact, as appears to be the case for Alzheimer's until late in its progression, or it may be progressively and irrevocably destroyed by a disease that will have largely consumed you by the time it kills your body. Either way, a lot of entirely disreputable things happen behind closed doors when family members are close to death and cannot look out for themselves - I'm sure we can all recall a tale or two. Which is all fine and well if it's just an inheritance fight, but when it means the difference between your brain and the data of your mind preserved well at Alcor or rotting away to guaranteed oblivion ... well, that's a much bigger deal.
These are challenges, given that the best we can do today is to try change the laws that prevent voluntary euthanasia, support research into biotechnologies that can repair the brain, and live an exceedingly healthy life. Many of these issues relating to the brain and cryopreservation could be dealt with if Western governments didn't force people to live to the bitter end, no matter the personal cost. On the general health side of things, it is true that fit older folk don't tend to suffer Alzheimer's, which appears to be just as much a lifestyle disease as type 2 diabetes for most people. There are still any number of other degenerations, however, and even the best kept body and brain deteriorate progressively until death.
So, as people tend to point out, support of cryonics is not a complete alternative to support of medical biotechnology - people who will not live to see the advent of true rejuvenation biotechnologies should still be very interested in medical progress in regenerative medicine and other fields likely to support therapies and methods of preventation for the degeneration of the brain with aging.