Cryonics technicians believe suspending the death of someone today could
mean life for that person tomorrow.
Cryonics isn't to be confused with cryogenics, which is the general scientific
field of cold temperatures.
Cryonics is a complicated scientific and ethical challenge. And yes, you
do handle bodies. Hugh Hixon is facility engineer for a California group that
promotes awareness of cryonics and provides facilities for suspensions.
"One of the most interesting parts of the job is wondering when and who
will help these people come back," says Hixon. "It's quite likely that we
won't be around when technology enables us to do that."
The theory behind cryonics is that if you freeze a person, he or she can
be revived eventually. The person would only be revived when a cure for a
disease they may have has been found, or if there's a cure for old age. Cryonics
technicians make sure that the freezing is done properly, and that the facilities
are properly maintained.
Aside from looking after facilities, the job involves a lot of research.
"We're constantly looking for ways to do this better, and to further research
on reanimation. We read a lot," says Michael Perry, who works with the same
group as Hixon.
Almost all technicians work for foundations or nonprofits that promote
cryonics and carry out freezing, or for companies who work directly with these
foundations. They also counsel, conduct family casework and educate the public
Cryonics technicians, like Hixon, generally have scientific or philosophy
backgrounds with high levels of education. Some have previously worked as
doctors, physicists or biologists.
Cryonics Magazine reports there are about 40 people cryonically suspended
at North American facilities. The cost per patient can be quite high, and
may come from life insurance plans. Patients must make arrangements to make
yearly payments, and also make sure there is money left over to pay for reanimation.
Total start-up costs can be as much as $40,000, not including annual fees.