Frequently Asked Questions

Index - 1. General - 2. Technical - 3. Ethical - 4. Spiritual
5. Financial - 6. Membership - 7. Misinformed
See also Scientists' Cryonics FAQ

Page 6 - Membership Questions

Q: Why should I join Alcor when I'm young and healthy?

A: Because we need you, and you need us. Like saving for retirement, cryonics is an easier commitment to make while you are still young and healthy because life insurance is much more affordable. If you put off cryonics arrangements until you are older, it will be harder to afford, and you may become uninsurable due to unexpected health problems. By joining Alcor now, you not only protect yourself, but strengthen Alcor and make it more likely that we will be here when you need us.

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Q: What are the fees associated with becoming an Alcor member?

Adults pay $595.00 annual dues plus $180 annually for Comprehensive Member Standby, for a total of $775. Additional family members pay $310.00 annual dues plus $180 annually for Comprehensive Member Standby, for a total of $490. Annual dues for persons under age 18 are $155 (Comprehensive Member Standby fees are waived for minors).

Life insurance in the minimum amount of $80,000 for neuropreservation, or $200,000 for whole body preservation is also required (or these amounts must be secured by other means). Alcor strongly recommends that funding above minimum amounts be obtained if possible to allow for inflation and future technical advances.

For more information, see Schedule A - Required Costs and Cryopreservation Fund Minimums.

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Q: Will insurance companies allow Alcor to be the beneficiary of my policy?

A: Yes. Prominent insurance companies across the country are cooperating with Alcor to ensure your needs are met. See Alcor's list of insurance agents for a free quote.

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Q: What is an Associate Membership in Alcor?

A: Supporters of Alcor who are not yet ready to make cryopreservation arrangements can become an Associate Member. Associate Members are members of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation who have not made cryonics arrangements but financially support the organization. For details of costs and benefits see our page on Associate Membership.

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Q: Can Alcor cryopreserve me prior to legal death?

A: Since cryopreservation is not yet reversible, cryopreservation of a legally living person would be regarded as homicide or suicide under current law. While some communities have enacted legislation allowing suicide with the assistance of a physician, any such case almost certainly would be followed by an autopsy which would include dissection of the brain. For these reasons, and to protect ourselves from any accusation of conflict of interest, Alcor has a strict policy against advising any member to end life prematurely.

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Q: Does it matter how quickly Alcor gets to me after cardiac arrest?

A: It is critically important. Ideally, Alcor prefers to do a "standby" (see next question) and begin cardiopulmonary support, medications, and cooling within the first couple of minutes after cardiac arrest. Alternatively, other personnel should pack the patient in ice, do chest compressions (to speed cooling), and administer heparin (to prevent blood clots) if available. Delay not only increases the likelihood that information in the brain is lost, but it compromises the ability of Alcor to later perfuse cryoprotectants properly, resulting in freezing injury.

The most effective way of reducing delays and getting the highest quality cryopreservation is to relocate to cooperative hospice care near Alcor (see the FAQ question "What can I do to optimize my chances of being cryopreserved under good conditions?").

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Q: What is a "standby" and do I need it?

A: Standby is the process in which cryonics personnel are deployed and waiting near the bedside of a patient at serious risk of death. The purpose of Standby and a Standby Team is to take prompt action to restore blood circulation, administer protective medications, and start rapid cooling when the heart stops beating. This is critically important to achieve a good cryopreservation. Alcor attempts to provide Standby when needed to all members in the U.S. and Canada through its Comprehensive Member Standby Program.

Standby is considered so critical that it is understood that the very best treatment a pronounced member can obtain starts with a fully staffed bedside rescue at a location close to the Alcor facility. Alcor members covered by the Comprehensive Member Standby Program who elect to relocate to a care facility near Alcor, such as a hospice or a temporary home, are entitled to relocation assistance of up to $10,000.00 from the Alcor Standby Fund Pool.

Standby is a necessary part of cryonics because the purpose of cryonics is to stop the dying process as soon as possible. This cannot be done if clinical death is unattended, and procedures don't begin until hours later. Sometimes delays are unavoidable, and Alcor will still perform cryopreservations under poor conditions if necessary. There is evidence that brain cell structure persists for several hours after unattended clinical death. However, freezing damage can be substantial in such cases because cryoprotective perfusion is compromised by blood clotting and tissue swelling.

It is Alcor's position that cryonics should not be planned like an interment procedure which can be done hours after clinical death. Doing so compromises the biological integrity of patients, and the scientific credibility of cryonics. Unfortunately some members of other organizations seem to believe that Standby is not necessary, and that having morticians collect their deceased bodies to send off for cryopreservation is just as good as any other cryonics procedure. We believe this is decidedly not the case.

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Q: How will people know I am an Alcor member in an emergency?

A: Alcor provides every member with an ID bracelet and ID necklace. These stainless-steel items have the member identification number and emergency instructions engraved upon them. Members should wear this jewelry at all times in case of medical emergency or clinical death.

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Q: Is there a time limit beyond which cryonics will not work?

A: We cannot answer this question in any simple, straightforward way. Clearly, there will be some point at which the fundamental brain ultrastructure responsible for encoding memory and personality is destroyed. Exactly when this point is reached is not currently known. Even after 24 hours of ischemia (lack of blood flow) at room temperature, many microscopic brain structures are well preserved. However, ultrastructural and molecular-level disruption over this time course is profound. To what extent essential brain information persists in cell debris (much like information about a car persists in accident debris), and to what extent it may be recoverable in the future, are unknown.

Because of current uncertainties about such critical issues, most (although by no means all) Alcor members have requested cryopreservation be carried out regardless of the degree of severity of injury or time delay.

Each member may specify the conditions under which he or she wishes cryopreservation not to proceed in his or her Alcor Cryopreservation Agreement.

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Q: What can I do to optimize my chances of being cryopreserved under good conditions?

A: The very best way to insure a good cryopreservation is to relocate to the Phoenix Metro area if you become terminally ill. Alcor has a working relationship with a large, well-established, non-profit Phoenix-based hospice organization. Available hospice services are quite varied and include options for each level of care required. At one end of the spectrum, for the most independent patients, are designated apartment complexes. As a patient is likely to progressively need more intensive interaction, assisted living venues, nursing home facilities, and finally, in-patient care arrangements are offered. Alcor members covered by the Comprehensive Member Standby Program who elect to relocate to a care facility near Alcor, such as a hospice or a temporary home, are entitled to relocation assistance of up to $10,000.00 from the Alcor Standby Fund Pool. Contact Alcor for more information.

Personal risk reduction can be a significant factor in improving one's chances for cryopreservation under good conditions. Eliminating smoking and making lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of sudden death from heart attack and stroke could reduce your chances of dying under circumstances in which Alcor cannot reach you quickly. These have the added benefit of leading to a healthier life as well.

It is important for Alcor members to do whatever they can to avoid the risk of autopsy. For more information, see the Alcor paper on Protecting Yourself in Medical Emergencies.

There are many things that can be done on a local level to improve one's chance of rescue in an emergency. Trying to interest others in your area, and forming a local support group are good first steps. In larger communities with a larger number of cryonicists, volunteers can learn cryonics rescue techniques and store emergency equipment.

Finally, you can support cryonics research and provide financial and volunteer support to improve Alcor's capabilities on every level. The more resources Alcor has at its disposal, the more it will be able to achieve. In large measure our effectiveness, or lack thereof, is a function of the support we receive from our members.

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Q: What if it is impossible to cryopreserve me?

A: When you select options in the Alcor Cryopreservation Agreement you will be asked to state your preference if cryopreservation turns out to be impossible (for instance, if you should be involved in a disaster where no human remains can be recovered — Alcor did tragically lose one member in the World Trade Center collapse, and no remains were recovered).

One option you may select is to name a secondary beneficiary for your life insurance, assuming you are funding yourself with a life insurance policy. The secondary beneficiary will receive the face value of the policy after your legal death if the first beneficiary (Alcor) is not eligible. However, this does entail some risk. We have seen cases where a relative concealed the death of a cryonicist from the cryonics organization because the relative wanted to keep the insurance money.

Some members want all of their cryopreservation resources focused on recovering any biological remains whatsoever, regardless of the degree of damage or time elapsed. This is a highly personal decision, and one each member must make individually.

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Q: How will Alcor sustain itself for the duration of my cryopreservation?

A: In 1997, Alcor created an irrevocable Patient Care Trust. This trust was established to ensure the security of the funds allotted to the long-term care of Alcor's cryopatients. Using a conservative estimate, the funds should generate more than enough money to cover patient maintenance indefinitely.

Alcor places $25,000 into the Trust for each neuropatient and $115,000 for each whole body patient. The Trust holds the mortgage of the building housing Alcor patients as well as majority interest in the ownership of the building.  The rest of the Trust investments are held at the investment firm of Morgan Stanley. Future growth of the Trust that sufficiently exceeds patient storage cost may be used to fund research into the technology of patient repair and resuscitation. The full text of the Trust is available in the Alcor Library.

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Q: How will Alcor remain organizationally stable for the duration of my cryopreservation?

A: Alcor is governed by a "self perpetuating Board." In such a Board, new Board members are elected to that position by existing Board members. This is the most common way of electing Board members in non profit organizations. The duties and authority of the Board are described in the Bylaws, Articles of Incorporation, and by applicable law. The Board seeks to achieve the fundamental goals of Alcor, as described by the Mission Statement.

Alcor's self perpetuating Board dates back to Alcor's founding in 1972. For over 35 years, the Board has served Alcor through a wide range of circumstances and sometimes turbulent times. Over that time we have grown from a few people to an organization with over 800 members. Today's Board members, also called Directors, continue to serve Alcor.

A fundamental rationale for selecting the self perpetuating Board structure was its ability to provide continuity of purpose over a long period of time. Existing Board members select those new Board members who they believe are best able to preserve Alcor's core values and carry out its mission. All Board members are required by Alcor Bylaws to be Alcor members. While not required by the Bylaws, we also find that Alcor Board members are cryonicists of long standing and are well known within the cryonics community. By tradition, new Board members are usually sought from the ranks of Alcor Advisors, although the Board can and has selected Board Members who have not been Advisors. Board members have a strong incentive to choose carefully because the success of Alcor and the survival of our members — including our Board members — is heavily dependent on the abilities and character of future Boards of Directors.

For more discussion on this topic, see Alcor's Self Perpetuating Board.

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Q: Does Alcor cryopreserve pets?

A: Alcor cryopreserves pets of members if arrangements are made to do so. Several members have pets in cryopreservation. Costs vary depending on the size of the animal and other circumstances. Alcor members with pets can contact Alcor for more information.

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Q:  Is it possible to place some of my personal effects into storage with Alcor?

Alcor has indeed made provisions for every patient to permanently store one cubic foot box of information, to be removed from storage and returned upon revival. Few members or patient families have taken us up on this offer for a "memory box", but we do have some who have done so. We encourage our patients to include journals, books, photos, CDs or DVDs etc., anything they might treasure in the future. The dimensions of the box are 13" wide by 15" tall by 18" long.

The archival materials are sent to a salt mine in another state (Underground Vaults & Storage in Hutchinson, Kansas ), where they rest at a constant 65 degrees F.  The cost of this permanent storage is included with the cost of the cryopreservation procedure. Additional box storage may be purchased for $250/box.

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Q: Is cryonics illegal in Canada?

A: In 1990 the Canadian province of British Columbia enacted a law that specifically banned the sale of cryonics services in that province. In 2002 the Solicitor General (Canadian equivalent of a state Attorney General) issued a written clarification stating that the law only prohibited funeral homes from selling cryonics arrangements. Cryonics could still be performed in the province, even with the paid assistance of funeral homes, provided they were not involved in the direct sale of cryonics. This position is affirmed by the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority of British Columbia. Despite these assurances, anxiety about the law remains.

 

Q:  Why choose Alcor?

A: Alcor is the only cryonics organization that uses cryopreservation technology and solutions developed for medical applications by leading cryobiology researchers. The M22 vitrification solution used by Alcor is the product of decades of research in mainstream laboratories working to cryopreserve whole organs. It incorporates numerous patented technologies that prevent ice formation, reduce toxicity, and eliminate a type of damage called chilling injury. It is able to vitrify at slower cooling rates, and larger volumes, than any other vitrification solution in published scientific literature. Electron micrographs of brains cryopreserved using M22 were published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1019: 559–563 (2004)).

For those who choose whole body preservation, Alcor is the only cryonics organization that attempts to perfuse the entire body with cryoprotectants to reduce freezing injury as a standard of care, using the same state-of-the-art solution for both the body and brain. Alcor also uses demanding “closed circuit” perfusion, the same method of circulating fluids through the body used in heart surgery and organ cryopreservation research. This permits cryoprotectant to be introduced more gently, with better temperature control, without requiring cryoprotectant concentration in blood vessels to be far above target tissue concentration.

Alcor is the only cryonics organization that attempts to provide bedside standby service to all members in the U.S. and Canada [subject to a 180 day waiting period after signup]. The purpose of standby is to begin stabilization and transport procedures immediately after clinical death. Other organizations require extra contracts and funding for standby service. When these costs are added, the minimum funding requirements can actually exceed the minimum for Alcor neuropreservation.

The chart below outlines some of the cost and technology differences between procedures available through Alcor and the Cryonics Institute (CI). For further details see Alcor’s minimum funding requirements page, and the membership page of the Cryonics Institute.

 

Procedure
Minimum Funding
Annual Costs
Standby
Advanced Solutions and Perfusion Technology
Cryoprotection of the Body
Alcor Whole Body $200,000 $775* Yes**
Yes
Yes
Alcor Neuropreservation $80,000 $775* Yes**
Yes
No
CI Yearly Member with Standby $95,000 $120 Yes
No
Optional
CI Lifetime Member with Standby $88,000 $0*** Yes
No
Optional
CI Yearly Member $35,000 $120 No
No
Optional
CI Lifetime Member $28,000 $0*** No
No
Optional
* Includes Comprehensive Member Standby (CMS) fees and membership dues. Family discounts are available, and members under the age of 18 do not pay CMS fees.
** Available only in the U.S. and Canada and subject to a 180 day waiting period after signup.
*** A one-time payment at signup of $1250 is required. Family discounts are available.

Alcor’s long-term planning is conservative. Minimum funding requirements budget $115,000 to be set aside to fund long-term care of whole body patients, and $25,000 for neuropatients. Any excess funding also goes toward long-term care unless the member specifies otherwise. As a result, Alcor has more funding set aside per volume of patients under care than any other organization by a wide margin.

Alcor also segregates long-term care funds in the Patient Care Trust (PCT), which has a separate board of directors that oversees investments and ensures PCT funds are only used for long-term patient care. No other cryonics organization has this structure.

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Q: Can I visit Alcor?

A: You are always welcome to schedule a tour or visit Alcor's facility in Scottsdale, Arizona. Please contact us for more information or use our online tour reservation form.

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