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Should doctors inform patients of "cryopreservation" services?

Oliver Zolman MD

Do physicians have a duty to inform patients of cryopreservation services?

Cryopreservation services are those that act to store the patient's entire body or head only immediately after "legal death" at sub 120 degrees Celcius temperatures. The purpose: to use regenerative medicine in several decades time to address the root cause of the patient's legal death. The sophistication of such services has advanced in recent years, with cryopreservation protocols now incorporating automated CPR machines, a cocktail of neuroprotectants & cryoprotectants, ultrasound and high resolution CT scanning.

Some predict cryopreservation services will be routine in the near future, as an extension of emergency medical care. For almost a century, biological cells have been stored in liquid Nitrogen for decades and viably thawed later. Today over $200M USD has been invested into scaling this ability up to cryopreserve and thaw whole organs such as livers, kidneys and hearts to address organ shortages. Another multi-hundred million USD project, recently featured on the front page of New Scientist magazine, is in development in the US to create the world's largest cryobiology research facility, of which would be able to house tens of thousands of human patients.

Regenerative medicine can now regrow severed fingertips, 3D bioprint human hearts, turn skin cells into sperm and eggs, and create pig-human hybrids as a source of personalised organs. The regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy and healthspan extension industries have some of the highest predicted compound annual growth rate percentages across technology; all will be multi-decabillion dollar markets by 2025.

When it comes to planning end of life or palliative care, or emergency medical care, patients may be informed about Do Not Resuscitate orders, Lasting Power of Attorneys, Wills, Trusts and burial or cremation services. Due to lack of knowledge of cryopreservation services, physicians and other allied healthcare professionals very rarely communicate this alternative.

For a patient to have informed consent regards a medical decision, by definition, they must be able to assess and weigh up all the options. What would you do in this situation?

First published Feb 8th 2017

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