Alcor News

Alcor News

News Blog of the Alcor Life Extension Foundation

Alcor Members Speaking at the Humanity+ July 7-8 Online Summit

POST-PANDEMIC: A World Free from Disease and Destruction. That’s the title of a summit organized by Humanity Plus to be held online via the Zoom platform. Alcor members are likely to find plenty of interest here. In fact, a good portion of the speakers are Alcor members! There are three key topics or themes:

    Beyond Mortality: Preventing Negative Conditions Impacting Life
    Beyond Scarcity: Economy of Abundance
    Beyond Cruelty: Stop Discrimination, Create Compassion

Most obviously, Alcor members will immediately find relevant the first of these topics. Longer lives do not occur in a vacuum. The other topics consider some of the context we might hope for as we live longer lives. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have provided the original impetus for this event. As the summit page says:

There is an undeniable need for new technology, science, and social efficacy to empower human dignity and to minimize the destruction of life.

Dealing with the pandemic is front page news. Yet, another never-ceasing crisis goes under the radar—all people are aging from failing systems, people are suffering from scarcity, and people are affected by the cruelty of others.

SARS-CoV-2 is a war on human biology and a wake-up call for every person on the planet. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, or socioeconomic status. It can affect everybody, but it kills first the oldest, the weakest, and the poorest.

This world-wide killer infection has expanded the bandwidth of news feed and online events as people are trying to understand and strategize a solution. There is no question that human civilization is now alert to its own vulnerability. Rather than continuing with such vulnerability, we need to act at the biological core. The human genome must be strengthened and protected.

Expanding on the three themes:

1. Beyond Mortality: The disease of aging leaves people helpless, locked in a system of sickness and death rather than a system of healthcare and life. We need new technology, science and social structures that promote positive conditions rather than negative conditions.
2. Beyond Scarcity: We must improve global quality of life. An economy of abundance is not about how much; it is about how good—a quality of life that provides basic human needs, freedom, and well-being, and that advances opportunity and potential.
3. Beyond Cruelty: Discrimination of people because of sex, age, race, gender, appearance, religion, beliefs, and political and social status are global, verifiable, and prevalent. What would society need to overcome misperception and cognitive bias? With an abundance of compassion, discrimination has no place or purpose.

The speakers currently confirmed are: Ben Goertzel, Max More, Natasha Vita-More, Nell Watson, Jose Cordeiro, Anders Sandberg, David Brin, Betelhem Dessie, Alishba Imran, Michael Masucci, Kat Cotter, Zoltan Istvan, Maria Entraigues-Abramson, Ryan O’Shea, David Ernst, David Wood, David Kelley, and Didier Coeurnelle.

More Information.

Register.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

Technical Update: Body Bag Modification

After much discussion between the medical and scientific staff, directors, and others, Alcor recently adopted new guidelines: “Pandemic restrictions on Alcor cryonics procedures”. Two components of those procedures for all cryonics procedures in the operating room (OR) are: 1. Either use a body bag or the Alcor whole body table for OR procedures. 2. Drain into a sealed bladder or bucket pre-loaded with the appropriate quantity of disinfectant. Steve and Jacob Graber figured out how to put this procedure into operation.

In Steve’s view, the best approach is to perform the Field Cryoprotection Procedure (FCP) directly in the body bag with a gravity drain into a sealed bladder pre-metered with the appropriate disinfectant. This enables good control over the drain protocol. It also prevents additional moving of the patient from the gurney onto and off of the WB table – a point of physical exertion and a potential source for contaminated fluid leakage.

Steve and Jacob “came up with a modification to the body bag that provides for a controllable drain system into a waste reservoir during FCP. See the image. The acrylic strengthening rings are welded to the body bag. The barbed drain-nipple is captured on the inside by a threaded nut. It is very strong and completely waterproof.”

Previously, to drain the body bag from the corner into a bucket meant cutting the body bag with scissors. This could expose the operator to the flow of fluid and risks spillage if the bag was moved. Steve writes: “The gurney must be tilted such that the drain is lower and a hydraulic assist at the head-end of the gurney does this, as well as offering the surgeon some height adjustment of the surgical field. We will use a hydraulic jack under that set of wheels and the rear wheels must be locked and/or blocked to prevent movement of the gurney.”

Having a controllable drain for ice bath water and for FCP effluent is a desirable feature. Steve and Jacob will be modifying all body bags with this drain system, including those that are sent into the field.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

A Bad Coronavirus Week for Arizona

In my last post a week ago, I noted the shortening of doubling times for confirmed cases of COVID-19, starting May 25. In that week, total confirmed cases have risen from 29,852 to 40,924. The daily percentage increase has varied between a low of 2.84% and a high of 6.52%. Another measure of growth in cases that smooths out daily bumps is the 7-day moving average. This is how it has looked over the last month:

05/27: 338
06/03: 710
06/10: 1,090
06/17: 1,581

Today, June 17, Arizona ranks #18 in total cases; #4 in new cases; #20 in cases/capita. #19 in total deaths; and #23 in deaths/capita. Rising numbers of confirmed cases can sometimes be attributed in part to increased testing. That has not been a factor over the last couple of weeks. A disturbing sign is the growing percentage of positive tests:

Covid Act Now’s chart provides several indicators:

In future posts, I’ll be looking at other states in which Alcor has many members and in which the disease is growing.

–Max More
Ambassador and President Emeritus, Alcor Foundation

Alcor Leadership: Change for the Future

A statement from Max More:

When I joined Alcor in 1986, I couldn’t know that I would eventually take on the role of President & CEO. When I accepted that role, I was concerned that I wouldn’t last long. The average tenure at that time was 2.6 years and, for the most recent six presidents, it averaged 1 year 3.25 months. When I stepped down on Friday May 14, of this year, I had served for 9 years, 4.5 months (or, as I like to think of it: 3,425 days).

Times change and organizational needs change. New people with new skills step up. Alcor has been transitioning from the almost all-volunteer organization of the 1970s and 1980s to the desperately underpaid organization of the 1990s and early 21st century to an increasingly professional non-profit. The complexity of Alcor’s operations – remarkably but necessarily high for an organization of this size – calls for highly-trained and qualified personnel.

When I was taken on as President at the end of 2010, I came aboard with modest experience managing non-profits, over a decade of studying numerous aspects of business, and a pretty good understanding of Alcor’s functions. With the support of staff and board, I managed to initiate or shepherd through advances in many areas:

We moved a good portion of Alcor’s operating and reserve funds out of holdings that I saw were being eroded by inflation into investments designed to generate a reasonable return over the medium term. In 2016, for instance, this generated earnings of $102,649. Among other financial changes, I raised almost six million dollars in donations, and brought about cost savings in electricity, liquid nitrogen, and other areas; increased the financial allowance for members to relocate to Scottsdale if they are terminal; introduced alternative funding options and long-term member discounts, and reductions in membership dues; and moved the budget from in the red to in the black.

I still feel enthusiastic about talking to the media and the public about cryonics, even after doing so hundreds of times. I have done numerous television, newspaper, magazine, podcast, and book interviews; greatly improved the appearance of the Patient Care Bay and the inside of the building; created and developed the Alcor YouTube channel; introduced attorneys, financial planners, and others to Alcor through special tours; improved relations with medical institutions; and led the last round of major upgrades to Alcor’s website.

Over the last decade, I have also:

  • Overseen and participated in dozens of cryopreservations.
  • Fostered a culture that looks for ways to improve rather than being overly attached to past practices and equipment.
  • Reintroduced the SCCD (for circulating ice bath water to accelerate cooling).
  • Facilitated new research, such as the c. elegans work, the brain-only initiative, the CT scanning project, and many internal technical improvements.
  • Pushed (with limited success) to upgrade our IT infrastructure, including adoption of a CRM (Salesforce), better group collaboration forums, new timecard system, and online/cloud-based accounting. Achieved backup of patient and member files to the cloud.
  • Pushed to generate SOPs and to have new people trained as backup for some core positions.
    Introduced additional surgeons to our on-call list.
  • Improved international response capabilities.
  • Pushed for adoption of better guidelines for optimal temperature for transitioning from cardiopulmonary support to surgery and perfusion.
  • Chaired two successful conferences.
  • Improved security.
  • As Alcor keeps growing and becoming ever more complex, the time has come for someone with more managerial and executive experience to take over as CEO. I will still be active in full-time, but I’m relieved to say that we have an excellent person to take over the CEO duties in Patrick Harris. Patrick’s experience in large companies – and his own focused and determined personality – has equipped him with the knowledge and practical skills to lead and develop team, plan tactically and strategically, and execute efficiently on the other roles that form the chief executive position.

    I won’t be going anywhere. My new role comes with the rather grand title of “Ambassador and President Emeritus”. This describes my new role:

    The Ambassador and President Emeritus will report directly to the Alcor Board of Directors, using his long experience and involvement in cryonics, many contacts, institutional knowledge and decade of experience as Alcor’s President and CEO, in fulfillment of the following activities:

  • Engage in strategic thinking, planning, and marketing by both board assignment and independent initiative, communicating with the board and CEO. This includes identification of individuals and organizations with whom strategic alliances and involvement may be beneficial. Participate in fundraising in coordination with the Fundraising Committee.
  • Serve on the Deployment Committee per board appointment according to terms of the Deployment Policy.
  • Engage in public communications on behalf of Alcor, including lectures, interviews, facility tours, and networking, in coordination with other staff as appropriate. Participate in conference planning.
  • Write for Alcor News, Alcor’s Facebook page, Cryonics magazine, and the Alcor website in coordination with the editors of these publications. Serve on the Editorial Board of Cryonics magazine. Make contributions to the organization’s internal wiki to document procedures and policies.
  • Participate in a new round of website upgrades.
  • Under the direction of the Medical Response Director assist with case logistics planning as needed during deployments, assist in the facility as may be needed during cryopreservations, and monitor facility procedures and adherence to SOPs.
  • Facilitate Research Committee discussions and votes as may be required. Report to the board at least quarterly or as requested on activities of the Research Committee including progress and status of funded projects, and balance of Research Fund relative to commitments.
  • Participate in organization legal affairs as required.
  • Participate in board meetings and email deliberations along with other senior staff.
  • Monitor the health of the organization on an ongoing basis.
  • I look forward to serving the organization for another ten years.

    Patrick Harris and Max More, greeting in pandemic style

    Our Response to Covid-19

    The COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges for the practice of cryonics. Alcor remains committed to providing cryopreservation when needed. However, Alcor members should be aware of limitations during the pandemic. If you are hospitalized, cryonics personnel deployed for standby services might not be allowed to visit you inside the hospital. Electronic contact with care providers and your family will instead be relied upon for condition updates. Prompt access to begin cryonics stabilization procedures after legal death may not be possible in hospitals.

    Alcor or its contractor partners will negotiate for fastest possible access to begin procedures. If you become terminally ill, home hospice care or care at a cooperating hospice facility is recommended to permit faster cryonics response than hospital care. Since the best care is possible near Alcor, Alcor will continue to financially assist terminal members with relocation to Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Due to loss of service from contract surgeons during the pandemic, and due to concern about circulating large volumes of infectious fluid with potential generation of airborne droplets during mixing, Alcor will not be using its normal cryoprotectant perfusion machines during the pandemic. Alcor will instead use the procedure Field Cryoprotectant Perfusion FCP. In FCP, only the head is perfused with vitrification solution via the carotid arteries using a simplified perfusion procedure in which no fluids are recirculated. This procedure means that during the pandemic, whole body cryonics patients will be cryopreserved without receiving any chemical protection from freezing injury below the neck.

    Whether FCP will be performed in the field, as its name suggests, or in Alcor’s facility will depend upon logistics and surgeon availability on a case-by-case basis. Further precautions will apply to cases known to be positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. For COVID-19 cases, initial stabilization in ice will be limited to an abbreviated list of anticoagulant and other medications circulated by several minutes of chest compressions with the head covered to prevent exhaled breath from entering the room.

    These restrictions may change as personnel gain more experience doing cases with scrupulous infection control procedures, if perfusion machine design changes are made, and if normal surgical service during the pandemic can be secured. Alcor will work on all these problems at the same time that it does a comprehensive review of all infection control procedures to ensure a safe baseline of operations during a highly contagious respiratory virus pandemic. If vaccine development takes longer than expected, there will be even greater efforts to safely return to normal practices by 2021. However, these are the limitations that Alcor is currently operating under. This temporary “fall back” position is necessary for the safety and continued availability of the limited number of specialized personnel whom Alcor has available to provide cryonics care for everyone during these extraordinary times.

    Alcor’s VP of Finance, Bonnie Magee, leaves her job at Alcor

    Bonnie Magee, Vice President of Finance has decided, after 10 years, to leave the employ of Alcor Life Extension Foundation. She is a long-time cryonicist and Alcor member and we value the contributions she has made and her dedication to Alcor. We wish her the best in her future endeavors. If you have any membership questions you can continue to reach out to Diane Cremeens, Director of Membership at diane@alcor.org and for any billing questions to Marji Klima, Director of Operations at marji@alcor.org.

    Alcor Longevity Circle of Distinguished Donors

    The Alcor Board of Directors is pleased to announce the formation of the Alcor Longevity Circle of Distinguished Donors. This new organization will honor those members and their foundations that have donated in excess of $100,000 over the past few years to support Alcor and its affiliated organizations. In addition to being recognized in Alcor publications and at conferences and other events, members will also be entitled to:

    – Exclusive access and a quarterly conference call with Alcor Directors, officers, and officials to get in-depth briefings and ask questions and make suggestions.
    – Special recognition, seating, and access to officials at Alcor conferences.
    – An exclusive yearly, hosted in-person event honoring members with face-to-face interaction with Alcor Directors, officers, and officials.
    – A unique, professionally designed and engraved memento of their membership.

    These benefits are, of course, overshadowed by the immense gratitude members and patients’ families will always have for these especially generous individuals. The Board looks forward to announcing Charter members of the Longevity Circle who qualify by December 31, 2020. New levels of membership (higher and lower levels of participation) may also be announced in the future.

    A message to our members about COVID-19

    Novel coronavirus and the associated COVID-19 pandemic is a top priority at Alcor. The health and safety of our valued Members, staff, and strategic partners is of paramount importance. With the announcement of travel bans and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declaring COVID-19 as a pandemic, Alcor is taking this threat very seriously. Updates on COVID-19 outbreaks are evolving rapidly and we are actively tracking the situation.

    Rest assured, should the need arise, it is Alcor’s policy that we will respond to COVID-19 cases and we will advocate with officials and healthcare providers so we can provide the highest quality cryopreservation for our Members / Patients. Out of an abundance of caution, Alcor has taken and is taking the following steps to prepare to support our valued Members:

    • We proactively ordered medications, supplies and personal protective equipment for our standby, stabilization, and transport (SST) teams before inventory became unavailable. We are fully stocked and prepared to handle higher case volumes, if necessary.
    • We are hosting planning calls with our strategic partners, Suspended Animation (SA) and International Cryomedicine Experts (ICE), to ensure SST professionals are prepared for case work.
    • Alcor, SA, and ICE will coordinate SST to deliver the highest level of care to our Members / Patients that is possible with circumstances that exist.
    • Alcor will enhance our Watchlist to include members that test positive for COVID-19 and we will collaborate with SST professionals for rapid deployment.
    • Alcor Staff members will be allowed to work remotely for non-mission critical functions during this time to mitigate exposure to COVID-19 so they can be in optimal health when case(s) present. Additionally, Alcor will be suspending tours of our facility.
    • Alcor has postponed a training event that was to be held in New York in April with numerous attendees and other events planned for later this year are carefully being reconsidered.
    • Alcor and its partners are monitoring regulations for transport of human remains and human tissue infected with novel coronavirus. According to direct communication from the U.S. State Department, there are no new domestic restrictions for remains transport as of March 12. International cryonics patients will be maintained in dry ice if there are delays in obtaining importation permits, and/or converted to neuropreservation on an emergency basis if serious obstacles to importation of infected whole bodies are encountered.

    Some of our Members have expressed interest in relocating, temporarily or permanently, to Scottsdale, AZ. Alcor does not have a specific recommendation regarding relocation because each Member has a unique set of circumstances. However, if a Member wishes to explore relocating closer to Alcor, we are happy to answer questions. International travel is not recommended for members residing in the U.S. due to the possibility of becoming seriously ill while abroad. The recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) should be followed for domestic travel.

    You should contact your healthcare provider if you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath not related to existing conditions. Your healthcare provider will be able to make a recommendation on if you should come to the office, emergency department, or stay home. If you do test positive for COVID-19, or are hospitalized for any reason, please notify Alcor immediately. Alcor recommends that our Members maintain good hygiene and monitor updates as directly posted by the CDC and WHO.

    Member A-1774 becomes Alcor’s 176th patient on January 14, 2020

    A-1774 is a non-confidential, 77-year old, male with whole-body arrangements for cryopreservation. He had been a member since 2000. He was pronounced legally deceased in Scottsdale, AZ very shortly after being relocated from his home state by medical flight.

    Alcor member A-1774 was in a rural area about two (2) hours away from a major airport, and over 1,600 miles away from Alcor. A healthcare provider contacted Alcor on Thursday, January 9 to inform Alcor the member may not have much time left.

    Alcor’s Medical Response Director, Blake Honiotes, and Readiness Coordinator, Sarah Kelly, collected clinical data on the member. Vitals indicated no evidence that there was an immediate risk to the member; however, Alcor elected to send Eric Vogt, co-founder of International Cryomedicine Experts (ICE), to the member’s location to assess the situation further.

    Eric arrived at the member’s bedside in less than 10 hours and, after assessing the member’s condition, concurred there was no immediate risk. While visiting the member, Eric built trust with the member’s daughter, Lori, who permitted Alcor to use her first name. Eric explained to Lori that Alcor can help provide relocation assistance for terminal members and she agreed to move her father to Arizona.

    Eric from I.C.E. said, “With the information provided by ICE, Alcor was able to make informed decisions to ensure the best outcome for its member. ICE participated in discussions with Alcor on how to relocate the member due to inclement weather conditions, location to nearest major metropolitan airport, and the member’s health.”

    Eric, Blake, and Sarah relocated the member to a short driving distance from Alcor on Sunday, January 12. Lori accompanied her father and Eric on the trip. In less than 7 hours after arriving in Arizona, the member suffered cardiac arrest. Protocol was initiated within 3 minutes and the member arrived in Alcor’s Operating Room within 72 minutes from pronouncement.

    Blake, Alcor’s MRD, said, “Once the Member arrived, I was able to perform my own assessment and it was determined that a standby was warranted. When the patient suffered legal death, Alcor and ICE provided rapid stabilization and transport and surgical assistance. This collaboration between Alcor and ICE sets a great precedent that should be strived for in all future cases.”

    This case is a first for Alcor in many ways. It’s the first case under Alcor’s new outcomes-based contract with ICE. It’s the first case for Alcor’s new MRD, Blake Honiotes. It’s the first case of 2020 and it’s the first case to take advantage of the newly increased relocation assistance for terminal members of up to $15,000as approved by the Alcor Board of Directors in December 2019.

    The member’s daughter, Lori, who is not a cryonicist, told Alcor, “I’d just like to say thank you to Eric from I.C.E for making the last wishes of my father as painless as can be. If it weren’t for him and the members of Alcor, I’m not sure how I would have gotten through it. And thank you to Blake and Sarah. They treated me like family. I was lost after dad passed and I really needed that.” Lori toured the Alcor facility while she was in Arizona and returned to her home the evening of Monday, January 13.

    A full case report will be published.