Milwaukee family plans to cryogenically freeze themselves when they die in hopes to be revived in the future
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee man and his family are betting on the fact that one day, medicine will be able to bring them back to life.
Dennis Kowalski predicts medical technology will be capable of it in 50 to 300 years. He, his wife and three children plan to be around for it.
"I believe we're not at the pinnacle of our knowledge and I think we're going to advance much further,” Kowalski said. “There's a very good chance this might work."
Before then, his family’s bodies will be preserved through cryonics, the process of cryogenically freezing people who have just died.
A popular theme in fiction and pop culture, there are several organizations that offer the service, including the non-profit ‘Cryonics Institute’ in Michigan.
Kowalski is the president of the Institute.
"You have nothing to lose,” he said. “If cryonics doesn't work, you're no worse off than anyone who's buried or cremated. On the flip side, you're potentially going to have another chance and see the future."
In a sense, the concept already exists in medicine.
Doctors at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center told us they induce a kind of hypothermia on some heart attack patients in order to reduce brain damage.
"We keep them at that temperature for 24 hours and then we rewarm them slowly," said Dr. Suhail Allaqaband, a cardiologist at Aurora St. Luke's.
Dr. Allaqaband says it’s highly doubtful anyone could last at those temperatures very long, but he admits he’s thinking within today’s medical framework.
He was hesitant to dismiss completely the possibility of cryonics succeeding.
The Cryonics Institute charges $28,000 to preserve members in perpetuity.
Kowalski says 170 people and more than 100 animals are currently on site.
Thousands more are signed up for the procedure when they eventually die.
Kowalski says he believes in God. He doesn’t feel that presents a conflict with his plans for after death.
"If God wants this to work, it'll work,” he said. “If God doesn't want it to work then it won't work."
The Catholic Church has considered the question of cryonics.
Father Javier Bustos with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee told us cryonics isn’t necessarily blasphemous; the ‘why’ behind the person’s decision just needs to be considered.
"It could benefit the human person but as any means of science, it can also be abused," Bustos said.
As cryonics moves more into the public consciousness, international exposure has come for Dennis, including an appearance on ‘Good Morning Britain’ with Piers Morgan.
The attention doesn’t surprise Paul Brodwin, an anthropology professor at UWM. He says we should only expect to hear more of this conversation going forward.
"Humankind has always been interested in asking the question 'Is there life after death?' and humankind has always wanted there to be life after death," Brodwin said.
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