Today SevenPonds speaks with Andy Zawacki, Chief Operations Officer for the Cyronics Institute (CI) in Clinton Township, Michigan. The Cyronics Institute is the only non-profit organization in the United States. Andy has been involved with the facility since 1985 and now oversees and coordinates memberships, preparing documents and facilitating cryonics. On a daily basis, he maintains the building operations to assure the safety of the suspension tanks. Part of CI’s mission is to offer “a second chance at life.”
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Suzette Sherman: I wanted to know what cryonics cost? Then I saw a chart on your website that compares your costs with other organizations. I was surprised to see there are six organizations internationally that provide cryopreservation.
Andy Zawacki: Well some are really small. There’s a lot of standby organizations. Cryonics Institute stores the most patients of any organization in the United States. And yes, people always want to know about cryonics cost.
Suzette: Yes, I see your organization lists the best price at $28,000 for the procedure. I also see the highest price charged by another organization is $200,000. Why is there such a big difference in cost?
Andy: We set CI up as a nonprofit perpetual endowment fund to help keep costs low. Also, lot of nonprofits charge high prices and then pay everyone very well – we don’t. We made a point of keeping our costs low. Many of us are volunteers. The cost for cryonics is still the same as it was back when we opened. Location impacts price, too. We are in Michigan.
Cryonics Institute conference room
Suzette: How do people pay for this if they do not have the full amount?
Andy: Well, the cost of a lifetime membership is $1,250. To pay for the procedure, some people prepay the full amount, thereby guaranteeing the price. If they don’t have the cash, they can use an IRA or bank investment. If they do not have the amount needed up front to pay for cryopreservation, the most common way to pay is through a life insurance policy. The person purchases a policy large enough so that the death benefit covers the cost. Then they set themselves as the beneficiary and maintain the premiums. The payments can be as low as $20 a month for young people who signup early in life. It depends on your age and health, but it’s affordable for most. We also have experts on our board who are willing to help with creative funding.
Scientist, Robert Ettinger
Suzette: What question do people ask a lot?
Andy: They ask about religion. My simple answer is, if God doesn’t want it to happen, it won’t. You won’t come back alive. You know, it’s like a heart transplant. At one time in the past, people thought it was freaky, but now they think about it as life saving, good stuff. People use to think putting a dead person’s heart in someone else was Frankenstein-like. Just because coming back to life from cryopreservation is not possible today doesn’t mean it won’t be possible 10 years from now.
Suzette: What are the reasons people choose cryonics?
Andy: They don’t want to die or they want to live again. I had a father call about cryonics for his son. But then I found out his son was already dead, so it was too late. Some people have an interest for emotional reasons too. As technology advances, we find people are becoming aware and are more attracted to cryopreservation.
Suzette: What are your recommendations for someone shopping cryonics.
Andy: Ask a lot of questions. Go see the facility and ask about price differences.
Suzette: I think most people who know about cryonics think it’s still science fiction. At SevenPonds we wrote a review of the book “Erasing Death,” in which a doctor in New York City wrote about how he is bringing some people back to life with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So I am aware this is already possible on a limited level. But most people think cryonics is pie in the sky and will never be real. What’s your take?
Andy: There is a lot that points to this becoming real someday. Stem cell research is happening, so in theory we can grow any body part. And we know from CRISPR that scientists can edit DNA. Then there’s nanotechnology. Someday we could have little robots that repair our bodies. Also reverse engineering allows science to fix some body systems by copying what already exists in nature. All at these technologies are pointing us in the right direction.
Because of this we have a lot more people coming to us now.
Graphics in the Cryonics Institute hallway
Suzette: How would someone personalize or record, in some way, who they were as a person in their first life?
Andy: Through cryonics we save DNA, and DNA is really hearty. We also store your mind, your essence, through the synapses and nerves in your brain. If these are intact, then you’re intact. Members also have the option of providing a DVD of who they are with images and paperwork. We have storage space for whatever they want to provide to us.
Suzette: It’s interesting how comfortable you are with all of this.
Andy: [Chuckle] We have a saying in cryonics. The 2nd worse thing is to die and get frozen, but the worst is to not get frozen.
Suzette: Interesting. So besides checking out your website, how else can our SevenPonds readers learn more?
Andy: We have a quarterly newsletter that we email out, those interested can sign up at email@example.com
Suzette: It was great touring your facility and speaking with you Andy!
Andy: You too!
Did you miss the first part of our interview with Andy Zawacki? If so, please catch up here.