X-Message-Number: 1332
Date: 18 Nov 92 07:10:42 EST
From: Paul Wakfer <>
Subject: CRYONICS Mike Darwin Cancels Suspension Membership

Au Revoir, But Hopefully Not Goodbye: A Communication  From  Mike 

     Over  the  years I have written many articles  for  Cryonics 
magazine.  But I never, even in my wildest imaginings, thought  I 
would be writing the one I am writing now.  Life is very  strange 
and it is also often very harsh.

     On  Wednesday, 4 November, 1992 I terminated my contract  to 
provide  suspension services and consultation to the  Alcor  Life 
Extension  Foundation.   On  15 November, I  also  terminated  my 
Suspension Membership with Alcor.

     Since  many  of  you are Alcor members  either  directly  or 
indirectly  as a result of contact with me or my work product,  I 
feel  a  sense  of responsibility to explain to you  why  I  have 
chosen  these  courses  of  action.   The  decision  to  end   my 
participation  in Alcor as both a Suspension Team and  Suspension 
Member was a surprisingly easy one.  The years of pain and  grief 
which lead up to it were not so easy -- either to live through or 
to explain.  

     In  a  way  these two decisions come as a  great  relief,  a 
positive  thing: much like the relief often experienced by  those 
who have watched a lover, a parent, or a child, suffer a slow and 
agonizing  decline, when death finally comes.  It is  a  terrible 
analogy,   but   also  a  very  true  one.    Yes,   there   were 
"precipitating"  events.  But they were not the only reasons.   I 
will  do  my best to share with you my reasons and  feelings,  in 
large measure so that you might be spared some of the pain I have 
experienced.    And   also  in  the  hope   that   perhaps   this 
communication will motivate some of you to try to change a course 
of  events I have been powerless to effect even though I bear  no 
small measure of responsibility for setting them in motion.

     As I think back to over a decade ago I can see in my  mind's 
eye a vision of Alcor which I, and others working with me, sought 
to  turn into reality.  For most of that decade I felt  confident 
of success and confident that Alcor was on the path to being  the 
pillar of integrity, openness, fiscal responsibility, and  keeper 
of high principles that I dreamed it would be.  I was an idealist 
in love with an ideal, and perhaps the outcome is as it always is 
for  idealists  who dare to dream their dreams aloud and  try  to 
fashion  them  into  a  living  breathing  thing.   Today,  I  am 
experiencing  the  same grief that many of  you  experience  when 
surveying  what the dream of our constitutional  forefathers  has 
become in the form of the United States as it exists today.  I am 
truly  thankful that Paine, Jefferson, Franklin,  and  Washington 
never lived to see it.

     Yes, it may still be one of the freest and richest countries 
in  the world.  But what does that mean, and how does it  compare 
to what would have been, could have been, should have been had so 
many  of  the first principles of the Founding Fathers  not  have 
been corrupted by a body politic of cowards and scoundrels  who's 
only allegiance is to their own short-term interests rather  than 
to  the  principles which they were charged with  preserving  and 

     And  so  it goes with Alcor.  Over the past 5 years  I  have 
watched  as  principle  after  principle  was  compromised.    As 
decisions increasingly became made on the basis of  interpersonal 
dynamics,  politics,  and compromise.  I have  watched  as  Board 
meetings  became exercises in public showmanship while  the  real 
issues  were debated in secret behind closed doors so  that  both 
the issues and the bitter acrimony that surround them are  hidden 
from  members'  view.  There is more than  a  passing  similarity 
between  the woes of Alcor and the woes of the United  States  of 
America,  or of Great Britain, or half a dozen other nations  for 
that matter.

     Alcor  has  lost  the  serious commitment  it  once  had  to 
research.  I am still trying to recover from the shock and  anger 
I  felt  upon  reading Keith Henson's words  on  Jerry  Leaf  and 
cryonics  research in the September issue of Cryonics:  "I  think 
that  a substantial part of the reason Jerry did not do a lot  of 
research in the last few years is that he simply did not have any 
really  good  lines  of research  (which  fell  within  available 
budgets) to follow.  He was about to repeat and extend some  very 
old  work on hamsters at the time he went into suspension."   The 
thrust  of  the rest of Keith's article is  that  true  suspended 
animation may well require nanotechnology and that the costs  and 
problems   associated  with  suspended  animation  research   are 
probably   insurmountable  for  cryonics  organizations  in   the 
foreseeable  future.   This  from  a Director  of  Alcor,  and  a 
technically  sophisticated one at that!  (And they let  this  guy 
remain on the Board?!) Keith's remarks are pure nonsense.   There 
are literally dozens of projects that might be profitably pursued 
by  Alcor in literally every area of cryonics research.   I  list 
but a few below:

     *   Development  of  cryoprotectives  (single   agents   and 
mixtures)  in a rabbit brain slice model to reduce ice  formation 
and  thus  greatly  reduce  or  even  eliminate  the   tremendous 
mechanical  injury  current patients are experiencing.   This  is 
relatively  straightforward, inexpensive and incredibly  valuable 

     *    Elimination   of  cracking   injury.    This   requires 
straightforward   studies,  initially  with  bulk  solutions   of 
cryoprotective  mixtures  and eventually with  perfused  animals.  
This is more of an engineering problem than anything else and  is 
well within the reach of a small budget.

     *   Demonstration  of  the viability of  memory  in  mammals 
following  conversion of 60% of brain water to ice.  This is  the 
"hamster"  work which Keith mentions in passing.  And it  is  not 
reduplication of old work since the work done almost 50 years ago 
never  evaluated whether the animals retained memory  of  learned 
tasks following freezing.

    *  Additional  ultrastructural studies to determine  at  what 
point,   during  freezing  or  after  thawing,   the   tremendous 
ultrastructural damage to brains is occurring.  If a rabbit model 
is  used this work could easily be done for $10,000  (and  that's 
budgeting  it at 4 times what the first project cost in  the  mid 
1980's  using  cats!).   Additionally,  the  use  of  helium  gas 
perfusion  of  the circulatory system during  freezing  could  be 
investigated to determine if this would reduce vascular injury to 
the brain as it has been shown to do in some studies with kidneys 
and small intestine.

     *   Improvement  in  TBW  solutions  and  pre-medication  of 
suspension patients  so that they do not experience as much  cold 
and  warm ischemic injury.  This is a more ambitious  project  in 
terms of costs and personnel.  But in this case I know it can  be 
done  because I am already doing it, and doing it independent  of 
Alcor with far less resources at my disposal!

     I  could  go on and on.  The point is, Alcor has  become  an 
organization  that  has  lost  its  research  vision,  lost   the 
commitment it takes to do serious cryonics research and lost  the 
lead  to other cryonics organizations who, however  crudely,  are 
doing   real  cryonics  research!   Instead,  Alcor  spends   its 
approximately  $325,000 a year budget on other things -- most  of 
them   coming  under  the  heading  of  administration  and   the 
recruitment of ever more members with promotions and contests and 
slick  literature in a never ending quest to stay one step  ahead 
of a Ponzi-style day of reckoning.

     Alcor has lost its once serious commitment to keep its  word 
when making promises such as not invading the Endowment Fund.  It 
has even lost its ability to maintain the confidentiality of  its 
member/patient records.  It has become an organization  operating 
not  at  a cash surplus, but rather at a deep  deficit.   It  has 
become an organization that delays paying many of its bills until 
its  creditors all but scream (and sometimes until they  actually 
do scream).

     Watching these things happen has been agony beyond words for 
me.  Watching my dreams, and hopes, and much of the labor of  ten 
years disintegrate before my eyes has been like watching my child 
or my spouse die.  My Alcor bracelet has become a source of  pain 
and  humiliation every time I glance it.  There are no words  for 
the grief I have felt.

     For a long time I have been patient and even optimistic in a 
perverse kind of way, telling myself that things will get  better 
tomorrow,  that  things often get worse before they  get  better.  
Sadly,  this has not been the case.  With each passing year,  and 
more  recently,  with  each passing month,  I  have  watched  the 
situation  deteriorate.   Cryonics magazine, which once  was  the 
bulwark  of  hard  and  gritty truths  about  anything  Alcor  or 
cryonic,  has  been  reduced  to  a  bland  political  instrument 
designed  to put the best light on any information that  escapes.  
And  through  its pages damned little  real  information  escapes 
these  days.  For many of you, relative newcomers to  Alcor,  you 
will not remember when Cryonics was otherwise.  However, for many 
long-time  members  there is, I believe, the same sense  of  loss 
that I feel.

     In short, a major reason for my deciding to take the  course 
of action that I have is that I no longer believe.  At least  not 
in  Alcor  anymore.  I no longer trust or believe that  Alcor  is 
capable of caring for and aggressively defending the patients  it 
now  has in it care, and I also believe that Alcor can no  longer 
deliver the quality of suspension services it once did, and  more 
to  the  point,  I  believe the current staff  and  much  of  the 
management   at  Alcor  is  either  consitutionally   unable   to 
acknowledge  that fact, or in some cases to even appreciate  that 
it is so!

     An example of this erosion of trust which was a  significant 
"precipitating"  event for me was the failure of the Alcor  Board 
to  take any action to discipline a Director who  has  repeatedly 
violated  both  patient  and member confidences --  in  one  case 
making  deliberate, unauthorized, prohibited disclosures about  a 
patient's  medical  history  and  suspension  membership  status, 
boasting  about  it  afterwards and then stating  to  his  fellow 
Directors (in my presence), that he has every intention of "doing 
it again if he feels the situation justifies it."

     Some  will  argue that staying signed up with  Alcor  offers 
some  chance, certainly a better chance than nothing at  all.   I 
suppose there is merit to to this argument.  However, there  must 
be a belief that there is some chance. It is my honest assessment 
that  for me personally, Alcor, in its current form and with  its 
current  management (some of whom are both  well-intentioned  and 
even  close  personal friends) offers no chance at all.   Yes,  I 
acknowledge  that  positive change can still occur.  But  I  have 
come  to the decision that the personal pain of remaining a  part 
of  something  I  hold  in  contempt  and  which  sickens  me  to 
contemplate,  is  a higher price than the slim  probability  that 
Alcor  will  save  my  life in its current  form  should  I  need 
suspension  tomorrow.   When you no longer trust, you  no  longer 
believe.  And when you no longer believe, you no longer have  the 
motivation to pursue a course of action that causes you pain  and 
reminds you of a dream that has exacted a heavy price in dying.

     Many will call me a coward.  Some have told me that I have a 
duty  to  try and set the situation right.  Some  of  my  dearest 
friends  and colleagues, like Curtis Henderson, whom I love as  I 
love my own father and mother, have raged at me for my "cowardice 
and inaction."  What they fail to understand is that Alcor is now 
in the control of a political process and political processes can 
only  be  affected by politicians -- or  revolutionaries.   I  am 
certainly  not  the former.  And I am no longer  the  gun  toting 
version  of the latter ready to go off and form another  cryonics 
organization at the drop of a hat.

     I grieve mostly for the patients, but there is nothing I can 
do  for  them  beyond what I am doing here.   Many  who  question 
Alcor's  management  have  said  that  the  patients  are  in  no 
immediate  danger, that they are being well cared for.  And  yes, 
it  is  true that the liquid nitrogen is being  topped  off,  the 
records being kept.  But it is not that which is seen that is the 
problem,  it is that which is unseen.  What is not being done  is 
the issue.  Every day the seismic risk to patients increases  and 
yet the kind of solid precautions required to give the patients a 
fighting  change  at making it through a seismic  event  languish 

     Inefficient  financial operation has cost the  patient  care 
fund tens of thousands of dollars in lost interest -- money  that 
may  someday  make the difference between survival  and  failure.  
The  10% Rule has been all but gutted, long ago (and  in  secret) 
got  round  by billing exhorbitant fractions  of  staff  member's 
salaries  to  the  Patient Care Fund (PCF).   Did  you  know  for 
instance that 50% of Tanya Jones' salary is billed to the PCF.  I 
would be most interested to see how Tanya manages to spend 50% of 
her  full-time job on administrative matters related directly  to 
care of the patients in suspension!

     Ultimately,  the  quality of cryogenic  care  that  patients 
currently  receive  is  due  to  the  diligence  and   incredible 
dedication   of  a  single  individual  (who   operates   largely 
unsupervised),  Mike Perry.  When he leaves, is disabled,  or  is 
suspended  I have no confidence that the  current  administrative 
framework is set up in such a way as to insure that the job  will 
be done as well (or at all!) by his successor(s).

     I am also distressed by the pattern that this current crisis 
represents.   Every cryonics organization that has  ever  existed 
has  suffered  from  this  kind  of  problem:  poor   management, 
technical  deterioration, and political infighting.  I am  coming 
to  believe  that this problem may be one inherent  in  cryonics.  
That it may be a function of the lack of feedback inherent in  an 
enterprise  where the customers don't know what happened to  them 
for decades or centuries and it is all but impossible for  others 
to  sort  out what was or was not important in what was  done  to 
them  today.  Is an hour of warm ischemia a total disaster, or  a 
trivial  problem?  Does pulsatile flow really make a  difference?  
Is 20% ice formation vs. 60% really going to affect the  ultimate 

     The longer I live the more I am becoming convinced that  our 
cryobiological  and other scientific critics are quite  right  in 
asserting  that cryonics is not good science or even  science  at 
all.   At  the very least I am coming to  understand  their  deep 
discomfort  at  a practice that markets hope  without  tying  its 
promise  to  a  proven  path  of  feedback.   Permafrost  burial, 
"suspending"  people  who are partially  decomposed...   At  what 
point  do we look at ourselves and ask whether what we are  doing 
is rational or purely a religious exercise?  At what point do  we 
wake  up  to discover we have become a cult?  With  no  objective 
benchmarks people of little or no experience and even less  skill 
and  knowledge  end  up in control  of  suspension  programs  for 
political, rather than technical reasons.  And I wish to make  it 
clear  that  this is by no means a problem confined to  Alcor  or 
merely to the cryonics groups now extant.

     And  speaking  of  cults,  the hallmark of  any  cult  is  a 
constant  and  unrelenting  demand  for  member  conformity   and 
agreement  with leadership and the penalty for  noncompliance  is 
expulsion  or even execution.  I have witnessed Keith Henson,  an 
Alcor  Director,  with the support of Carlos  Mondragon,  Alcor's 
President, and Joe Hovey, Alcor's Manager of Information  Systems 
seriously  propose terminating a member's  suspension  membership 
because he said things of which they did not approve and  further 
proposed  creating  an  institution  framework  to  expel   other 
suspension  members  who speak their mind in  the  future.   More 
recently  I  have seen Keith Henson try to "censure"  Eric  Klein 
merely  for speaking his mind.  Dear God, what has Alcor come  to 
that  these  kind  of men are running it,  and  what's  more  are 
continuing to run it after exhibiting such behavior?

     To  my growing horror I am discovering that  cryonics,  much 
like  communism,  promises  to  improve  peoples'  lives  through 
science,  give them a future of abundance, increase  camaraderie, 
make  them  better  human  beings,  redress  many  of  the   deep 
injustices of life, and above all speed scientific and  technical 
progress.  The reality is that cryonics leads to financial  ruin, 
bitter interpersonal disputes, increased anxiety, and above all a 
stultification of technological progress.  It seems that inherent 
in  believing that today's techniques are good enough  to  rescue 
patients  treated  with  them  is a  corollary  decrease  in  any 
incentive to improve them.  

     Instead  of  "Comes the Revolution" the  mantra  has  become 
"Comes  Nanotechnology."   So  deep is  this  corruption  that  a 
Director  of  Alcor  actually  has the  nerve  to  say  that  the 
development  of true suspended animation may well have  to  await 
the development of full-blown nanotechnology.  It's a lucky thing 
the   idea  of  nanotechnology  wasn't  around  in  medicine   or 
engineering  in  the  distant past otherwise we  would  still  be 
waiting on antibiotics, vaccines, blood compatible surfaces,  and 
flying  machines.   We  are doomed to failure  when  any  "really 
difficult"  problem  becomes  a  task beyond  our  means  and  an 
achievement  we  must  wait for "Our Friends In  The  Future"  to 
deliver to us.
     The above notwithstanding, I have not given up on  cryonics, 
or  on  the  patients  in  Alcor's care,  or  on  the  ideals  of 
integrity, full disclosure, fiscal responsibility and above all a 
commitment  to  quality  patient  care  that  provides  objective 
feedback.   Without  these things, without all  of  these  things 
cryonics becomes merely another exercise in mysticism.   However, 
I have come to understand that cryonics organizations as they are 
currently structured will be unable to deliver these ideals.

     I have seen the gross and ultrastructural damage being  done 
to  cryonic  suspension patients' brains:  massive  ice  crystals 
displacing structures, cutting neuronal connections, and stirring 
the debris ahead of the growing ice fronts.  In my opinion it has 
always a 50-50 proposition at best as to whether or not  patients 
could (biologically) be recovered from such massive injury.   The 
only  thing which made such damage "acceptable" was  the  certain 
knowledge  that nothing better was available and that  everything 
possible  that  could  be  done was being  done  to  improve  the 
situation.   That  is the only thing, the only  thing  that  made 
inflicting  that  kind  of injury bearable.  

     When Alcor had no money, it was understandable that research 
was  limited  --  and  yet  still  research  went  on,  including 
pioneering  ultrastructural studies which disclosed just how  bad 
the situation was -- in addition to the incredible achievement of 
recovering  dogs  from 4-hours of bloodless perfusion  at  a  few 
degrees above freezing.  That is hardly the situation now. Now, a 
bloated  administration consumes tens of thousands of dollars  of 
money  and  virtually  no research relevant  to  improving  brain 
cryopreservation is being conducted.

     To me, this situation is totally unacceptable. It has become 
unbearable for me to continue my participation on any level in  a 
program  that  promises people research  on  suspended  animation 
while  it pours hundreds of thousands of dollars down  legal  and 
administrative rat holes.

     Since  my  return  as  a consultant to  Alcor  I  have  been 
repeatedly  told  by almost all of current management  that  they 
feel  fully capable of doing suspensions without me,  and  what's 
more  that they think they can do suspensions as well  or  better 
than  they  could  with me.  I have been told  bluntly  that  the 
reason I have been "hired" is purely political and that I will be 
let go as soon as it is politically tenable to do so.  

     Even with this situation as unpleasant and as painful as  it 
is, I would probably have continued to tolerate it and try to  do 
the  best  job possible.  However, the situation is such  that  I 
have  virtually no control over any aspect of Alcor's  suspension 
program  --  except my own performance.  And  my  performance  is 
critically dependent upon the facilities and staff I have to work 
with.  Over the past year I have witnessed what I believe to be a 
steady deterioration in Alcor's readiness and physical capability 
(much of it as a result of poor management, political squabbling, 
and  the alienation of Cryovita).  The situation is such  that  I 
have  come to actively fear the possibility of being involved  in 
an Alcor suspension.  As a case in point, I recently went over to 
Alcor  to in-service personnel on the use of the Mobile  Advanced 
Life Support Unit (MALSS).  During the course of my in-service  I 
discovered that several critical items were missing from the cart 
-- including tube occluding forceps -- items which are absolutely 
essential  to  being able to place a patient  on  cardiopulmonary 

     The   response   of   Tanya   Jones,   Alcor's   "Suspension 
Administrator" was vigorous protestations to the effect that  the 
cart  had  "just  been inventoried a short time  before  and  the 
occluders  were there at that time."  If this were the only  such 
incident  it might be overlooked.  But it is not.  Rather, it  is 
typical  of  a facility which is  increasingly  disorganized  and 
technically  unaccountable.   There is no adequate  inventory  of 
suspension critical supplies and equipment, and there is no lock-
down  on supply cabinets to insure that what has been stocked  is 
kept in place.  

     The Suspension Administrator is a 24-year-old woman with  no 
medical  or  technical  background  who's  approach  to   cryonic 
suspension  can  best  be  described  as  flowcharting  and  knob 
turning.   Hugh Hixon, the only staffer at Alcor  with  technical 
sophistication  is  both  disorganized and  incapable  of  either 
understanding   or  implementing  a  comprehensive   program   of 
readiness or teaching.  Both he and the Suspension  Administrator 
are  also regrettably weak on theory and, in my opinion,  lack  a 
comprehensive  understanding of the cryonic  suspension  process.  
These  things  in  and of themselves are  not  crimes  or  lethal 
errors.   However  when  they are coupled  with  an  attitude  of 
arrogance and unwillingness to learn they are.

     These  words  may  seem  harsh.  They  may  seem  bitter  or 
resentful.   They are not.  All those emotions have  been  burned 
out  of  me  long ago (and yes, I felt them once,  felt  them  in 
spades!).   Rather,  they are the unvarnished expression  of  the 
truth  as I see it.  The only emotion left in me is revulsion  at 
the whole ghastly situation and a strong desire to be free of  it 
at almost any cost.  In short, there comes a point when enough is 
enough.  I have reached that point. 
     I  am  still spending my time on cryonics.  I  am  still  as 
deeply committed to the success and growth of this idea as I ever 
was.   To  this end I am working in the laboratory to  develop  a 
reversible method of suspension.   A technique that can serve  as 
an  objective, irrefutable standard and benchmark  against  which 
all  suspensions, past, present, and future can be measured.   No 
doubt the odds are heavily against me and my colleagues.  Perhaps 
it  is very likely we will fail.  Thus it has always been.  I  am 
sorry  I cannot do more directly to "fix" Alcor.   However,  rest 
assured  I am doing everything I can to improve cryonics  in  the 
way I feel most capable -- by working in the laboratory.

     A change in the leadership of Alcor will be a good beginning 
towards the other changes that need to be made.   But it will  be 
only just that, a beginning.  Alcor and cryonics both need  major 
work.   Some of things which need doing are  straightforward,  if 
not easy to carry out.  Other changes will require solutions  not 
now in evidence.  
     In  the  meantime I have chosen to "take  my  chances."   If 
death  comes for me in the interim, then I can only hope that  my 
actions  here will have served to facilitate much  needed  change 
and  that  my end will serve as a sober reminder to  all  of  the 
price  of failure.  It is a price I was prepared to pay from  the 
start (and which I still sincerely hope to avoid having to pay).

     If  and  when a cryonics organization emerges  that  has  my 
trust, my faith (yes faith) and above all a serious commitment to 
brain  cryopreservation  research then I will join the  ranks  of 
those  signed  up again, and breathe a happy sigh of  relief.   I 
fervently hope with all my heart that that day will come soon and 
that that organization will be Alcor.

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