American Cryonics Society
The American Cryonics Society ("ACS") is a member-run, California-based, non-profit corporation that supports and promotes research and education into cryonics and cryobiology. Cryonics is the preservation through cold storage, usually with liquid nitrogen, of humans (and sometimes non-human animals) after legal death. This procedure is done in the hopes of eventual "reanimation." Any such reanimation depends upon future technological advances that are hoped for, but by no means assured or promised. Since 1972 ACS has offered a program where members who enroll, are placed into cryonic suspension upon their deaths and then maintained in liquid nitrogen. This program provides for continuous funding so that the relatives of the subject are not required to pay for the initial freezing, yearly maintenance in liquid nitrogen, or eventual reanimation (should the latter prove possible). Members often provide such funding through the purchase of a life insurance policy.
The American Cryonics Society was first incorporated in 1969 in San Francisco as the Bay Area Cryonics Society ("BACS"); its name was changed to the American Cryonics Society in 1985. The founding of the company followed over two years of organizational meetings by cryonics activists. Signers of the founding charter included two well-known Bay Area physicians, Dr. M. Colman Harris, and Dr. Grace Talbot. The 1969 incorporation date makes it the oldest US cryonics society, and arguably the oldest such society in the world. It should be noted that the Immortalist Society ("IS"), with which ACS works closely, is a successor to the Cryonics Society of Michigan whose founding predates that of ACS.
Since its beginning ACS has made valuable contributions to research and methodology of freezing and cold storage of organs and organism. The first suspensions of humans under the ACS program were in 1974 through Trans Time, a company founded in 1972 by activist members of ACS (then BACS). This was followed by a succession of additional suspensions and ongoing research into methods of preservation and procedures for maintaining tissue, organs, and organisms at liquid nitrogen temperature.
Starting in 1974 ACS-sponsored research into establishing suspension procedures included development of "blood substitutes" and flushes to replace the blood in cryonic patients with a solution which had croprotective properties. Dr. Paul Segall was the chief researcher, and following a technological report that members of the press viewed as significant, Dr. Segall, Dr. Richard Marsh, and others appeared on Good Morning America, The Phil Donahue Show, The Sally Jessy Raphael Show, and made many other popular media appearances. Somewhat later, ACS President Dr. Avi Ben-Abraham also did a media blitz to publicize cryonics research. ACS researchers would later develop commercial organ preservation solutions, based in part on ACS sponsored research.
In May 1988, ACS researchers authored a paper entitled INTERVENTIVE GERONTOLOGY, CLONING, AND CRYONICS: RELEVANCE TO LIFE EXTENSION that was published in Biomedical Advances edited by Allan L. Goldstein. The inclusion of this paper in a publication of serious academic inquiry properly identifies cryonics as scientific discipline.
Concurrent with biological research, ACS established financial and managerial policy to better safeguard the funds of members in suspension. This included funding through life insurance and conservative estimates of suspension and maintenance costs to ensure adequate funding. In 1981 ACS employed attorney Jim Bianchi to develop model trust and model will documents for people who wished suspension. Mr. Bianchi also researched the legal basis for cryonics, and developed a set of related documents.
In 1978, ACS researchers collaborated with Jerry Leaf of Cryovita Laboratories in experiments that would apply the methodology to cryonic suspensions that were then in use as surgical procedures to treat patients with heart disease. Thus a team led by a thoracic surgeon and a perfusionist would use cardio-pulmonary resuscitation equipment and blood-pumps to quickly cool a patient, and replace his blood with a blood substitute containing cryoprotectants. For several years thereafter, Cryovita Laboratories led by Jerry Leaf and Mike Darwin, were responsible for the initial cryonic suspension of ACS patients, which were then kept in cryogenic storage by Trans Time. This method of making use of contract companies as a means of risk management was unique to ACS and has been followed to the present day.
In 1992 ACS signed contracts with the newly formed CryoSpan Corporation and transferred a number of patients to that Southern California facility, as well as making use of CryoSpan services for a number of new patients. At about this same time it contracted with BioPreservation Inc., operated by Mike Darwin, to perform the standby and initial suspension of ACS members. ACS also purchased suspension and “first response” equipment from Mr. Darwin and other suppliers to enable ACS to freeze its own members, to supplement its employment of contract companies.
In 2002 when CryoSpan opted to close down its long-term cryogenic storage operations, ten ACS patients, and a number of pets were transferred to the Cryonics Institute ("CI") facility in Michigan. ACS had contracted with CI for the long-term cryogenic storage of a number of other members prior to the 2002 patient transfer.
In 2004 ACS signed a contract with Suspended Animation, a Florida based company, and in the same year Suspended Animation performed a stand-by, and suspension on an ACS member living in Florida at the time of his death. The patient was then transported to the CI Facility in Michigan for long-term cryogenic storage. When circumstances warrant, neural vitrification technology may also be applied to ACS subjects by CI personnel prior to long-term cryogenic storage.
ACS is managed by a seven person Board of Governors. Governors must themselves by full members, and are expected to have made suspension arrangements. Funds are managed by professional funds managers. As a further safeguard, a sponsor is designated for each person in suspension, to review financial records and cold-storage procedures.
ACS works cooperatively with the Cryonics Institute and supports the research program of that organization. Most ACS (frozen) members are in suspension at the CI facility. The agreement with CI calls for ACS to have inspection authority, and to have the right to remove ACS subjects from that facility should ACS warrant that such removal is warranted and beneficial. Such subject would then be transferred to another facility. All ACS subjects are fully funded to CI’s specification, and in addition, funds to benefit the subjects are maintained by ACS. This funding plan provides a double safety net against the possible financial insolvency of either CI or ACS.
The American Cryonics Society encourages members and the public in general to subscribe to the Immortalist Magazine. This bi-monthly magazine is devoted to discussion of cryonics activities, especially those of the Cryonics Institute where most ACS patients are in long term cryogenic storage.
ACS welcomes members from any country, however the level of service that a member can expect in most countries outside the US and Canada is limited, and in many cases the member himself, sometimes working with other cryonics advocates, must work to make local arrangements. Even then, given so much uncertainty, ACS can make no guarantees.
The cryonics movement, which started with the publication of R.C.W. Ettinger’s book The Prospect of Immortality in 1964, is still treated as a curiosity by most people, though cryonics continues to gain in acceptance by both the general public, and the scientific community (see scientist letters). Given the small number of people in suspension, and the incidents of patients lost to carelessness or accident in the past, the risk management approach to cryonics followed by the American Cryonics Society is warranted. That said, the extant cryonics organizations appear to have stability not always present in the past, and there have been no recent incidents of lost patients
There are (perhaps) 1,000 people with pre-need cryonics arrangements in place; however many of these people are young and not apt to need suspension services for many years. There are about 150 people now in suspension. These numbers include members and people in suspension from all organizations, in all countries. Of the 150 or so people now in suspension, about half are at the Alcor facility, and half at the CI facility (which includes the ACS patients), a couple of subjects are at Trans Time, and we will include in our count the dry-ice storage of Mr. Bredo Morstoel, in Nederland, Colorado, though many cryonicists argue that because of the warmer storage temperature of Mr. Morstoel, he should not be counted as a "patient." Since the patients at the CI facility are almost all whole body patients (as opposed to head only), the volume of biological material at the CI facility is far greater than at the other facilities.
As managers of the longest-lived cryonics program, ACS can take justifiable pride in its history. From 1974 to present, only one ACS patient has had to be transferred out of long-term cold storage. In that case the transfer was following a request made by the patient’s family, apparently for financial reasons. The patient was then preserved by chemical means. However, there have been several patients "converted" from whole-body to "neuro" because of funding concerns. ACS members either pre-approve or opt out of such arrangements as part of their contract. There have been no incidents in ACS history of embezzlement or loss of patient funds.