Cryonics, the practice of freezing oneself in the hopes that you can later be brought back to life and cured of whatever condition (including old age) motivated your decision, is basically illegal in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
I say "basically" because putting grandpa in a deep freeze isn't actually illegal. Instead, the province outlaws advertising cryonics services that encourage the "expectation" of being resuscitated one day. This restriction is likely due to the fact that a human has never been resuscitated after being cryogenically frozen, and all of cryogenics hinges on significant medical advances in the future. But what do I know? I'm just another plebeian dude who expects to die one day.
The law, the only one of its kind in North America, might not be around much longer if a new legal challenge from the Lifespan Society of British Columbia (LSBC), a group that promotes cryogenics, and a BC man named Keegan Macintosh, succeeds. Macintosh, who is in good health according to court documents, signed an agreement with LSBC in October to have his bodily fluids replaced with a kind of antifreeze after he is legally deceased. The actual deep freezing will likely be done by a company outside of Canada such as Arizona-based cryonics leader Alcor.
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Macintosh and the LSBC, according to court filings, believe that the use of the term "expectation" in the law is too vague, and is asking the Supreme Court of British Columbia to either remove the restriction entirely or clarify the law so that it will only outlaw companies that "guarantee resuscitation or exaggerate the prospects of resuscitation."
"I'm sure the court could find instances where there is cryonics fraud, but we don't want a reasonable agreement between an individual and a cryonicist to be under fire in the future," said Carrie Wong, president of the LSBC, in an interview. "That's what we're trying to establish."
According to a court filing, the LSBC affirms that it "cannot guarantee that [Macintosh] will be preserved indefinitely or ever be resuscitated." The agreement between Macintosh and the LSBC also states that resuscitation "depends on a number of profound developments in medical science" and we currently have no indications as to when it will be possible.
"The wording 'expect' is sort of vague, but having some sort of hope is a better way of putting it"
Wong said that the LSBC has a "connection" with Alcor, but would not provide further details.
"We never comment on agreements with any members if they have asked for privacy so in essence I cannot confirm or deny any arrangement," Alcor spokesperson Marji Klima wrote Motherboard in an email.
Macintosh did not respond to a request for comment sent in a Facebook message and could not be reached through other means.
Wong described the society as a "start up," and noted that the organization doesn't presently have any of the equipment it would need to cool down Macintosh's body before being frozen. Wong would not say when she expects the equipment to be available, but noted that Alcor has produced kits that can prepare a body for freezing before being transported to their facilities in Arizona.
The province of British Columbia, the defendant in the case, seeks to have the court refuse to make a ruling on the case since the LSBC doesn't currently provide or advertise any cryonics services and their argument is "academic and hypothetical," the province contends.
"We don't speak too much about the resuscitation process because we don't have the present technology to do that, obviously," Wong said of the possibility of Macintosh being brought back to life one day.
But does Macintosh himself "expect" to be brought back to life?
"The wording 'expect' is sort of vague, but having some sort of hope is a better way of putting it."
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UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comment from Alcor.