Doctors have placed humans in suspended animation for the first time, as part of a trial in the U.S. that aims to make it possible to fix traumatic injuries that would otherwise cause death by preserving life until the patient gets to the hospital.
Samuel Tisherman, at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told New Scientist that his team of medics had placed at least one patient in suspended animation, calling it “a little surreal” when they first did it. He wouldn’t reveal how many people had survived as a result.
The process involves rapidly cooling a person to around 10 to 15°C by replacing all of their blood with ice-cold saline. The patient’s brain activity almost completely stops. They are then disconnected from the cooling system and their body – which would otherwise be classified as dead – is moved to the operating theatre. A surgical team then has 2 hours to fix the person’s injuries before they are warmed up and their heart restarted. Tisherman says he hopes to be able to announce the full results of the trial by the end of 2020. Here is Ted talk if you want to get into the details:
The process is initially intended to save lives on Earth, but could also be used to send astronauts on long haul flights. Journeys to other star systems will forever be out of reach unless a massive breakthrough in physics makes faster-than-light travel a reality, or a breakthrough in medicine makes suspended animation possible.
There are other potential applications. People could be frozen waiting for future technology to repair any health issues of today, perhaps prison times, lifestyle choices to go to a future society, physical rehabilitation while the body repairs itself, are just a few thoughts. But this brings News Forecasters to ask, just how likely this technology could be developed to bring these ideas into reality?
The first technical question to ask is, why is this technology today limited to a few hours? Notice that the claims made by Samuel Tisherman stated that brain activity almost completely stops. What happens when it does stop? Will the body brought back to life, be brain dead like a vegetable? Or perhaps the technology can be set to keep the brain activity at a continual low level – but still asleep. It would be terrible to have a conscientious trapped in a chamber for a 1000 years and can’t move (like solitary confinement).
The issue boils down to understanding what the mind is. Is the mind merely fleshly brain matter – made of the natural world? Or, is there something metaphysical? Scientists most likely will tell us that the mind is mere physical brain matter. Others would disagree and say the metaphysical exists – though mocked by the scientists. This technology could be useful to test which theory is correct, and not just speculate.
If this new technology can be extended beyond a point where there is no brain activity, then this would support the idea against anything that is metaphysical. Scientists would be better served to prove things and not mock people. People often mock those that believe in the metaphysical, claiming that because they don’t understand, it must be something outside the natural world – the Watchmaker theory. But is it not just as equally the same argument to assume the contrary – another Watchmaker theory.
News Forecasters remains agnostic on this point and will wait until concrete proofs can be provided. So scientists, get back in the lab and start your work. Speculating the metaphysical can be dubious. Though News Forecasters is agnostic on this point, we will lean toward the idea that this technology will have limits relative to brain activity being present. So don’t be too eager to rev up the starship engines for Alpha Centauri just yet.