What does cryonics mean to those of us who believe in an afterlife?
At first glance, the bizarre world of cryonics might appear to raise troubling theological questions. If, for example, a body could somehow be revived five hundred years hence, where would the soul have been during the interim? Fortunately, theology is an applied science so meaningful pronouncements are only required when a substantive moral dilemma or religious quandary exists. The scientific consensus is that any body frozen using current technology has no chance of being revived in the future. Too much damage will have been done.
To be blunt, those bodies in the shiny facilities are dead and the souls have moved on to new pastures. If cryonics makes staggering and unanticipated advances then we will have to revisit this issue, but isn’t it much more likely that, well ahead of such a moment (which may never arrive), we will have located cures for the diseases that force many people into cryogenic decisions in the first place?
The present situation does call for some theological intervention, however. If cryonic procedures were to begin when a person was in the process of dying rather than after death then medical ethics must come to the fore. It seems reasonable to assume that a negative adjudication could be extrapolated from Church teaching on preserving life and respecting its potential and dignity in all circumstances.
A broader cultural question must also be addressed. I don’t believe that everyone who considers cryonic solutions is seeking immortality. They just want to prolong life or live without terrible pain or suffering. Blameless, certainly, was the disease-ravaged and desperate fourteen-year-old girl with such modest aspirations. Those who do want to live forever on the third rock from the sun are in a different, deluded category, however, and their refusal to accept the inevitable robs them of the chance to explore the possibility of another kind of eternity.