by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
July 31, 2002
DO NOT DEFROST
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- Why would anyone seek immortality when they already have it? As long as someone thinks about you, talks about you, remembers you, then you are forever kept alive with those warm memories.
As one of the boys of summer, Ted Williams' accomplishments listed on the plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame, in the order he achieved them, end with " ...and universal reverence." It takes a long time for universal reverence to die. And you don't have to freeze it to keep it fresh.
Theodore Williams, beloved as "Ted," was born on the sunny coast of California and died in his eighties on the sunny peninsula of Florida. He was a warm weather guy. He played baseball in a hot uniform, under sunny skies on unbelievably hot days -- and cooled off with a cold wet towel. He had no air-conditioned locker rooms yet he thrived professionally in just such an atmosphere. Ted Williams is immortal among the baseball greats, along with Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Hank Aarons, Yogi Berra... . The list of names is endless and the remembered plays that gave them immortality are as fresh in our minds as the men who made them happen.
To learn he agreed to be maintained indefinitely in cryostasis, a state where physical decay essentially stops, is so incongruous to me that I have to wonder what his family is thinking. It's one thing to honor the deceased's wishes, it's quite another thing to go through with it without proof of informed consent. If he did request to be placed in cryonic suspension as soon as possible after his legal death, did he know what it meant? The buzz word above is "essentially." Physical decay "essentially" stops.
From that line, I gather the belief is that nothing further damaging to the being will continue in the frozen state and thawing would only occur if cures for what ails you are available. I'm looking at this from a particular point of view. Many of my contemporaries died in the last 10 years, still more are living healthy and energetic lives. I wouldn't consider trying to extend my allotted time only to be revived at some future date with frost on my eyelashes and my same body, wrinkles and all.
We can use the word revived, perhaps restored, but not regenerated. The only consideration I can allow myself to entertain would be the case of a 20-year old with a flesh-eating virus with 24 hours to live before being consumed. In that case, if a doctor says the cure is around the corner, it would be reasonable for the patient to sign a waiver allowing doctors to keep the patient frozen, in the same hospital somewhere, with a 10-year timer to go off with full staff ready -- all while that same doctor is under contract to be on duty. Okay, give it a shot, life is precious.
In a line from the Cryonics Institute's informative page offering Suspension Services, I read "So come in. Talk to us, and learn about us." Then, further down, "Cryonics -- the only alternative to the despair of death and disease. A new technology of life potentially without limits." Uh, oh. There's another buzz word. This time it's "potentially." So, we "essentially" don't decay and "potentially" live forever.
When I read: "But please - don't wait too long. That can be fatal, and often has been," I am alarmed. And then, "But act now. It could save a life - just maybe your own," I can imagine some impressionable person plunking down the $28,000 dollars to get in line ($35,000 if it's a "last minute" case.) These are one-time fees, and insurance can cover it.
Well, if there's a sucker born every minute, it's reasonable to assume they die regularly, too. The ads show beautiful, smiling, faces of some who have signed up. However, no testimonials from those on their second time around.
So, where in the world will we find the last remains of Ted Williams? Make that ... the most recent remains of Ted Williams, still called the greatest hitter who ever lived ... well, after a little digging (excuse the pun) I learned he is at Alcor Life Extension Foundation, a Scottsdale laboratory that preserves bodies. They place them in liquid nitrogen and do not guarantee the preservation process. They freely admit the technology to revive someone does not at this time exist. They expect the first revival attempt will be in the year 2040.
Williams' family said the odds of survival didn't faze their father. A little note he signed to this effect was scribbled just four days before a pace maker was implanted. Four years ago, his will was signed in the presence of two witnesses with cremation as his wish. The legal system will work it's way through the courts to see which one of Ted's "wishes" prevails.
In the meantime, he is frozen in Arizona -- no easy feat. In fact, I think this saga could rival "The Cremation of Sam McGee," by Robert tuart Service. The last verse before the reprise goes something like this:
And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm,