This post may seem kind of morbid, so leave right now if you don’t want to be exposed to material that may possibly be upsetting.
A recent photo emerged of Steve Jobs looking frail. In my post How to Save Steve Jobs, I described some ways to rapidly conduct scientific research in a way that could possibly extend Steve Jobs’ life, though there are no guarantees. I should have written the post a long time ago (not that I could have got into contact with Jobs or his advisors anyway).
Some people say the photo is a fake. If the photo turns out to be real, it shows a person who doesn’t have much time left. It seems like many people in the media are already giving up on Steve Jobs and mourning him. Even before the photo was released, it sometimes seemed like I was the only person still talking about actually saving his life. Nearly everyone else was ready to just consign him to palliative care.
The photo had a major impact on me. It was the first time I actually thought of him as a father first before his other roles in life. Before, I just thought it would be a shame for the world to lose such an amazingly talented person. That doesn’t matter nearly as much as the impact on his children and wife. No one should have to lose a parent or spouse before their time.
Even if the photo is real, all hope is not lost. Let’s say that the techniques in my post about How to Save Steve Jobs didn’t work, or he never heard about them, or his doctors have already started focusing purely on palliative care. This is where cryopreservation and suspended animation come in. Instead of rehashing prior research about cryonics, I’m going to link to three of the most important blogs on the subject. They are:
Even though I think cryonic suspension of human beings may someday be scientifically validated, preservation enthusiasts sometimes get a bad reputation. Some of the negative beliefs regarding cryopreservation are understandable, since there’s no guarantee that a person can be resurrected after vitrification. No one who has been cryopreserved has been brought back to life yet. The subject also sounds strange to people who have naturally low levels of anxiety and thus are more accepting of death as a natural process. It’s also unnerving to those who are so terrified of the idea of death that they do anything to avoid the topic. This type of cryopreservation has another downside, which is the fact that the patient first has to die. All bets are off after that point.
That’s why it’s important to investigate another area of research which is conducted outside the community of cryonicists and transhumanists. The following research on suspended animation is incredibly valuable. Dr. Mark Roth wowed attendees at the TED Conference with his presentation on suspended animation.
A video is here:
You can find his papers at the Roth Lab Publications page. Like most biology and gerontology research, his lab often works with nematodes. Some of his most fascinating studies, however, have been the ones conducted in mammals. Hydrogen sulfide can put mice into a state resembling suspended animation. Unfortunately the same technique did not work to slow metabolism in larger mammals such as pigs or sheep.
Hypometabolism research is being tested in humans via Ikaria, though it’s for the purposes of reducing damage from trauma and surgery in critical care rather than preserving people who are close to death. Therapeutic hypothermia is another method of putting patients into a form of suspended animation or hibernation, though it’s also used primarily in the treatment of trauma and heart attack rather than putting patients in suspended animation before they can die. My last post on Steve Jobs talks about accelerating medical research in semi-legal yet ethical ways. Sadly, there seems to be no consensus on research in suspended animation or hypometabolism.
In May, Dr. Harriet Hall of Science-Based Medicine wrote a post that brings up many questions involving palliative care and medical ethics. The post on the site discussed a father who looked into alternative treatments to help cure his daughter:
Dr. Hall wonders the time spent frantically searching for cures would be better spent on comforting the patient and helping the family adjust during her remaining time. Dr. Hall doesn’t really come to a firm conclusion. It’s a tricky area of medical ethics. I have the unorthodox belief that if a person dies, his or her life was largely pointless. They may have achieved major accomplishments and helped massive numbers of people, but they are still gone. If you think of people as databases, their valuable information has been lost. It’s still important to pursue research in mainstream medicine and global health (especially clean water) to make the lives of people more tolerable while they’re alive.
A lot of people will undoubtedly disagree with me about the meaning of life. I actually want to believe in survival after death, though researchers are still arguing over the existence of the afterlife and whether it’s even a topic for science to examine. Steve Jobs has already made peace with death. I will continue to explore medical research, global health, and existing techniques for saving the lives of other people. Every human being deserves health even if he or she isn’t a billionaire. And if Steve Jobs does die, I hope someone by his side is compassionate enough to help him light up one last time.