Want to Live Forever? What It Costs to Get a Shot at It

Suspended animation is an expensive roll of the dice. But if you’ve got an extra $30,000-$200,000 that you’re dying to spend, you might consider trying cryonics.

Remember in “Star Wars” when Han Solo was frozen in carbonite? That’s a form of cryonics, the practice of preserving people — or just their brain — then reanimating them at some future date when there’s a cure for whatever killed them. And it’s not just science fiction.

“It’s taking your whole body or brain and storing it at low temperatures with the idea that eventually you might be able to be revived and restored to health and youth,” says Catherine Baldwin, a microbiologist. Baldwin studies cryonics, or the freezing of organisms with the goal of stopping tissues from decomposing, then reviving them in the future.

A few hundred bodies worldwide have been preserved after death this way since 1967 by companies like Alcor and the Cryonics Institute. Why so few? Well, besides being kind of creepy, scientifically unproven (so far), and not well publicized, it’s expensive.

We talked about the price tag, the process, and the popularity with Baldwin, who is the CEO of Suspended Animation in Boynton Beach, Florida. Her company handles the first step of cryopreservation: replacing bodily fluids with what’s essentially an antifreeze solution so the tissues can be safely frozen without creating damaging ice crystals.

There are a lot of variables when it comes to the price of cryonics.

“The fees can range from $30,000 total to about $200,000 total,” says Baldwin. “It’s quite a range depending on where and how you receive care.”

Here’s how it breaks down:

Deathbed care

A team of medical professionals is on hand when you’re declared dead. Their job is to act quickly to prevent tissue degeneration.

“They replace all of your body fluids with an organ preservation solution and get you as cold as possible as quickly as possible without freezing you,” Baldwin says.

It’s important that you don’t freeze.

“If you flash froze human cells like a steak, ice would shred your cells from the inside, and then there’s nothing worth saving,” Baldwin says.

But keeping the body around zero degrees Fahrenheit (about your kitchen freezer’s temperature) protects cells from damage while the body is transported to a storage location for further preparation and long-term storage in much colder temperatures.

After this team is done, the body is shipped off to a facility by private jet, commercial airliner or, if you’re close enough, by car for the next step.

Cost: $30,000 to $60,000, depending on the method of conveyance used to transport your body. Some of those who have signed up for cryonics actually move closer to a storage facility to help defray transportation costs.

Permanent preservation

Once at the storage facility, a second team receives the body, and the first chemical perfusion is replaced with a different “cryoprotectant.” Basically, the tissues are flooded with an even more efficient human antifreeze, “a specialized solution that prevents ice formation when you’re below minus 160 degrees Celsius,” Baldwin says. That’s almost twice as cold as the coldest natural temperatures on Earth.

Cost: $10,000 to $15,000.


“The third phase is long-term storage, and who knows how long that will be,” Baldwin says. Once your cells are safe from frost, your body is laid on dry ice to drop its temperature further, then placed in a container that’s dunked headfirst into liquid nitrogen, where it will remain until medical technology advances to the degree that your body (or brain) can be reanimated. How long that will be, of course, depends on how rapidly science advances, but Baldwin’s guess is that it will be at least 50 years and quite possibly longer.

Cost: Varies by provider. Some organizations charge annual fees of hundreds of dollars until you die. Others have flat “lifetime” fees.

While there are several cryogenic organizations worldwide, there are currently only three storage facilities in the United States. Probably the best known is Alcor, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Another, the Cryonics Institute, is northeast of Detroit in Clinton Township, Michigan. A third is TransTime, in San Leandro, California. All have been around since the 1970s.

Cryonics Institute may have the lowest cost option. Its least expensive program is $28,000.

Some also save by skipping the deathbed preparation.

“Some people don’t believe they need my team’s services,” Baldwin says. “So they die in a hospital or hospice, and somebody hopefully packs them in ice and gets them cool, and a funeral director will eventually come and pick them up and ship them on ice to the Cryonics Institute. CI does a kind of perfusion and puts them in storage. It’s very no-frills.”

If that sounds kind of risky, there’s one other way to head off the high price of cryonics. Rather than storing your entire body, you can opt to store just your head for a lower price. What happens when you wake up, though?

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  • The statement that two thousand bodies (we prefer “patients”) have been cryopreserved is incorrect. That number is too high by a factor of ten. Alcor currently has 104 cryopreserved patients; Cryonics Institute has a similar number; and there are just a few at other organizations.

    • Thanks for the info, Max. I’ll check into this and get it corrected.

  • Where in the world do you get your ideas about Isaac Asimov? While I have not read *everything* he wrote – of his vast non-fiction output, I have read enough to know that he did not believe in cryonics or time travel. Or faster than light rocketships! Just because he wrote science fiction doesn’t mean that he believed in its tropes.

  • advancedatheist

    Cryonics should appeal strongly to the entrepreneurial personality because it involves risk-taking with currently unknowable outcomes, and challenging the opinions of “the experts” who claim that “You can’t do it, because nobody has ever done it before.“ Fortunately all the successful startup companies based on new ideas have ignored negative advice from “the experts.”

    However, the entrepreneur interested in cryonics as a means to keep himself in business should consider the following:

    For a critical view of the current state of cryonics, as seen by one of its pioneers, I recommend Mike Darwin’s blog Chronosphere:


    Critics of cryonics differ from skeptics in that the former usually want to make cryonics work, or at least consider the idea worth exploring and developing, though they may raise issues with cryonics’ current scientific assumptions and its state of practice; while the latter, for example Michael Shermer, don’t want to bother with having to think seriously about cryonics at all, so they dismiss it out of hand, like “the experts“ who try to discourage entrepreneurs from acting on their ideas for new kinds of businesses. Interestingly enough, one of the cryonics skeptics, Isaac Asimov, vetted the scientific content of a book advocating cryonics published in the early 1960’s; he just opposed the idea for social and psychological reasons.

    The article also mentions “estates” as a mechanism for cryonics funding, but plenty of non-wealthy people, myself included, use life insurance as the source of paying for our suspensions. If you do want to try to preserve your wealth for your revival, however, some wealthy cryonics advocates have set up legally untested revival trusts which you can use as a model for holding your wealth in trust:

    A Cold Calculus Leads Cryonauts To Put Assets on Ice

    In case you wonder if a trust can last long enough and keep its value, Benjamin Franklin and the American financier Stephen Girard both left behind trusts. Franklin’s two trusts lasted for 200 years until their stipulated expiration dates. Girard’s trust still exists after nearly 180 years, and it has assets in the $200 million range the last time I checked. James Smithson’s trust provided the startup money for the Smithsonian Institution, while in Europe Alfred Nobel’s trust established the Nobel Prizes.

    The article also quotes Catherine Baldwin as saying, “It’s the longest shot you’ll ever take, and I think that’s part of a drawback and the appeal.” One, we don’t know the “length of the shot.” And two, the usual ways of calculating probabilities for unknown outcomes in some indefinite, science fiction-sounding future don’t apply to cryonics because we can exert a great deal of control over the outcome through our own efforts in the here and now. Suppose you take bets from people on whether you’ll do your laundry tomorrow, then decide what to do about your laundry based on which side of the wager has the higher payoff. Cryonics has characteristics somewhat like that scenario. Cryonicist and Ph.D. mathematician Thomas Donaldson, currently in cryonic suspension at Alcor, explains how our actions now make all current probability calculations about cryonics essentially useless in this essay:

    Responsibility, Probability, and Durability

    As for why a future society would want to resuscitate and rejuvenate entrepreneurs from the 21st Century, assuming that you survive the process in good shape, that society might have conquered scarcity in many areas relative to ours, but it could still experience a scarcity of entrepreneurial talent and would gladly welcome experienced and capable business people from the past who could get up to speed with the right investment and retraining, especially if they can reclaim and deploy their own capital held for them in revival trusts.

  • Don1357

    If you feel that life is only a material, mortal experience, you might want to take a stab at this procedure, and even then it is “iffy.” I have read that several have tried it and are awaiting some future event to be reinstated. But man, as a creation of God, is so much more than brain, blood, bones, etc. Preserving a body (by whatever method) that will eventually become earthworm food–whether in 10 years or 10,000 years doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I would rather drill wells for pure water or spend this $$ on food for people in impoverished countries need to live today (which my wife and I do). My take: Somebody is getting rich from this scheme with a lot riding on a tomorrow that will never come as they anticipate.

  • mona

    There was a scifi TV episode where a woman, whose husband was frozen after death, began having spells of feeling severely cold which grew worse with time. Finally her husband made telepathic contact with her. The ultra-low temperature allowed electrical superconductivity in his brain so that he was conscious while trapped in his frozen state. He begged her to have him thawed and let him go. Something to think about before one blows $ on this.

  • Vince Ryder

    Preserving the BODY is a long-shot possibility, but a much more likely (in my opinion) path to reanimation/life in the next 3 to 6 decades is via copying the MIND into a cybernetic structure with the ability to fully sense its environment and learn analogously to how the human brain does. Tie this to a robot body, and you have not immortality, but transcendence to post-human existence. I believe this is the most likely path of human evolution. In money terms, the first people to do this will pay a fortune, and then the cost will plummet in line with the application of Moore’s Law (computer price/performance over the last 50 years). And yes, I would pursue cryonics if I could do so without harming (financially or otherwise) my surviving friends and family members. Having said that, it is currently not on my life’s priority list (at all). Perhaps with an additional $250K life insurance payable to the service provider (of cryonics), it can become a higher priority until I can bankroll it directly, however such insurance becomes ever more expensive as I age.

  • Max More

    One big point is missing in this piece.The claim is that it’s very expensive. That’s misleading. Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that the vast majority of people who opt for cryopreservation use life insurance to pay for it. Unless someone is old or already sick, the cost of sufficient life insurance is quite affordable. For about the same as a grande cappucino daily, you can cover both the life insurance and membership dues at Alcor (which includes the standby, stabilization, and transport services provided by Suspended Animation).

    One other point: It is certainly highly desirable to reduce or eliminate ice formation as part of the process. But it is not the case that ice crystals will “shred” the cells “leaving nothing worth saving”. Instead, the cells will dehydrate, and ice crystals will form outside the cells and do major but not necessarily irreparable damage to the cell membranes.

    Several major medical advances took decades to be widely adopted. One day, cryonics will be standard practice and we will be baffled why more people didn’t adopt it sooner.

  • Mike Glen

    I have read about cryo-preservation companies.. Several went bankrupt, others took the money and ran, leaving the bodies behind un-cared for and forgotten. Living forever …. listen to Genisis’s song “Who wants to live forever”. Even if you are revived, how long will it have been? Who will remember you? Where are your Friends, Family ect… Gone.
    Nah I will live out my allotted time and pass when the time comes.

  • whattarush

    I’m ok letting go when the time comes. I can’t even imagine a habitable world, let alone reanimated people, in a hundred years. Even now, some people don’t recognize the need to take care of our world. They continue to pollute and exploit the earth as if there’s no tomorrow, so there will be no tomorrow.

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