| Valentin Gensch |
SENDEN, Germany (dpa) – When death comes to Klaus Sames, a 75-year-old retired German medical professor, there will be no time to lose.
An undertaker in the southern German city of Ulm will drive immediately to a filling station to buy about 60 kilogrammes of ice cubes, and then hustle them to Sames’s home in the Bavarian town of Senden, about a 15-minute drive south.
That, at any rate, is the plan.
Sames will first be packed in the cubes to slow decomposition of the deoxygenated cells in his body and brain.
He wants to be completely frozen immediately after death and thawed out in a century or two, when, he is convinced, now-fatal illnesses will have been cured and it will be possible to revive him.
He is putting his hopes for life after death on ice, as it were.
Sames was a gerontologist, or specialist in diseases of the old, during his academic career.
Regarded in Germany as a pioneer in the field of cryonics, a practice in which organs or entire organisms that cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine are preserved in a frozen state for future restoration to life, Sames meets with scepticism in many quarters.
Katrin Amunts, a neuroscientist and member of the German Ethics Council, an advisory group, calls his plan “frivolous”.
“As yet it’s impossible to freeze organs or organ parts and thaw them out later in the hope they’ll still function,” said Amunts, pointing out that the freezing process alone causes too much damage. “Attempts are doomed to failure.”
Sames, who concedes that cryonics is not an acknowledged science, kept quiet about his desire to be reanimated after death during the decades he was studying the ageing of the human body.
“While I was still doing science, I never outed myself as being interested in cryonics,” he said.
He remains hopeful. After his corpse has been packed in ice, it is to be brought to Markus Maichle, a 43-year-old German embalmer and undertaker who describes Sames as “a crackpot with a touch of genius”.
Maichle has experience in the short-term conservation of corpses for transport to other countries and his funeral parlour in Geislingen has some advanced medical equipment.
He, Sames said, is supposed to “perfuse the body with a coolant to put it to sleep”.
In addition, Sames’s chest is to be sawed open, his blood pumped out and replaced with a cryoprotectant solution to try to stop ice-crystal formation in the organs and tissues, which could damage cell membranes.
The next step is blast-freezing the corpse with dry ice to minus 78 degrees Celsius, after which it is to be transported to a cryonics company in the United States, placed into a container and lowered into a tank of liquid nitrogen kept at minus 196 degrees Celsius.
How long he will be there, Sames does not know.
“For 100 years at least,” he said, adding that he hoped he had sent enough money to the company for his extended stay.
Sames put the total costs at 40,000 to 50,000 euros (about US$50,000 to US$62,000). The United States is the only country where enough people believe in cryonics to make it a paying proposition to provide the freezers.
Sames agrees it would be foolish to think a person’s body could be frozen and thawed without damage, but still considers it possible in principle – if only in the future.
So whether and when he can be brought back to life will depend on scientific advances while he is cooling his heels – among other body parts – in the tank.
“Maybe at some point it’ll work,” he offered.