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Extended life, or even the possibility of immortality forces us to question our very definition of ‘death.’ Only one hundred years ago and even as recently as the 1950’s, cardiac arrest was believed to be an irreversible state – leading to the declaration of death (Shanbhag 2017)(Best 2008). Today, through medical procedures such as CPR combined with AED (automated external defibrillator), we are now able to ‘revive’ people who were once classed as clinically dead. Death is no longer considered an event but now as a series of processes, a state in which current medical advances are unable to cure.
The classification of death is not a simple as one may assume. For cryonicists the notion of death lies within three distinct concepts: (1) Legal Death – the legal declaration of death in which a physician determines resuscitation to be impossible. (2) Clinical Death – cardiac and/or respiratory arrest (Cron 2014). (3) Information-Theoretic Death – the point in which the neural structures that encode memory, personality, memory etc. are impaired to the extent in which the individual is no longer recoverable (Moen 2015). If we consider for example victims of cold water drowning whom later have been revived, with thoughts and personality etc. intact, one could argue that cryo-preserved patients are therefore by definition not Information-Theoretically dead and otherwise not considered dead, but in a state of suspended animation awaiting a time when revival becomes possible.
Under current law, a patient must be declared legally dead for cryonic procedures to begin. The medical criteria for legal death however becomes irrelevant if procedures are begun promptly and in some cases waiting for legal death may result in irreversible injury (Hughes 2001). Under our current definition of death, beginning the cryo-preservation process prior to death is considered murder or assisted suicide (Cron 2014). On the other hand, Cron (2014) argues that failing to preserve a patient reaching death, even with a small possibility for revival, could be viewed as tantamount to murder. Our definition of death is redefined according to the technology and laws surrounding it.

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