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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

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The Legal Perspective for Advanced Methods of Suspended Animation

Kamil Muzyka

Ethical Technology

October 02, 2014

Suspended Animation is a mean to preserve life by slowing or halting its processes, while not causing death. This is similar to natural occurring anabiosis, though carried out artificially in order to preserve human and non-beings. Currently there are two main means of suspended animation, Cryopresevation, dubbed Cryonics, and the less developed Ahydrobiosis. The former uses low temperatures or chemical fluid replacements, while the former uses desiccation in order to preserve an organism.

The main idea behind suspended animation is to provide victims of fatal accidents with the needs of safe transportation to a medical facility, without the risk of further damage. This can find applications in the process of space development, where the “on site” medical facilities are unable to effectively treat that condition de to lack of proper medication or specialists or robotic telesuregery is too risky due to information delay. 

Especially if such accident happens on an off-world colony, (like Mars for instance), and the colony medbay is insufficient to properly treat this particular kind of serious injury or trauma.

The current legal status of patients undergoing sustained animation is deceased. This is due too the fact that most current patients are declared legally dead by physicians. As far it might be justifiable for the reason of current technological possibilities and their near future prospects, it ma cause a major drawback in the future.

Why treat a person, who can be (assuming the proper method has been developed, tested and applied) put into suspended animation for the time of being transported to the proper medical facility, and supposedly stabilized, operated, and have his vital functions restored, as a dead person? People who’ve suffered clinical death, and have their vitals restored, aren’t treated that way. The closest solution is to treat them as comatose patients, who stand a chance to recover, or “wake up” as it is often referred to.

Yet persistent vegetative state (PVS) which also includes the state of coma is also very problematic, when looking at UK and US solutions. Thus transhumanist lawyers should propose the following:

  • While the person in suspended animation cannot conduct legal acts of will, and is not to be considered a corpse, thus the person must be provided with a court wardship, i.e appointing a conservator for the person. This would simplify current undergoing trends such as treating them as “dead by absentia” and after revival, reversing the process, which can be complicated to the inheritance problem or the loss of property rights.

  • Create a form of legal protection against “pulling the plug”, due to lack of funds or heirs presumed greed.

  • A nasciturus analogy, providing the “preserved” with the legal means in order to sue, if necessary, the “preserver” for any damage sustained during the preservation period, from the beginning of the preserving procedures, to the moment of revival, due to malfunctioning equipment, sabotage, actions of malice, etc. if any of this would cause fatal damage to the preserved, legal actions should be preformed by the District Attorney on behalf of the conservator and/or persons relatives.

  • A guardian could be also appointed for the patient after “revival”, if it occurs after more than five years from the initial procedure. This idea should be considered to avoid the post recovery syndrome, like in patients recovering from coma. This could range from confusion, depression, aggressive behavior, but also something that can be named a “hibernatus effect”, when after full recovery, a patient show adaptive problems, due to social, technological and legal changes. Therefore, for the time of the adaptation the patient, who’ve been suspended for several years or even decades, should have an appointed guardian, taking full custody and responsibility over the patient.

Another issue is to create a system of procedures, which require paramedics to be equipped with mobile suspended animation equipment, which could be used only on the team’s doctors direct orders, when fatal injuries have been sustained by the patient.

Summing up, if the technology that allows saving lives is to flourish as a globally accepted procedure, such as first aid or vaccination, it must be made available for people, and transhumanist lawyers must do everything they can to provide proper legislation, so that suspended animation would be viewed as a life saving procedure, not as a funeral practice, or organ donation.

Kamil Muzyka is a lawyer specializing in industrial property law and technology management, with a focus on issues of artificial intelligence, asteroid mining and international space law.


Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
IEET, 35 Harbor Point Blvd, #404, Boston, MA 02125-3242 USA
phone: 860-428-1837