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It may soon be possible to place human beings in a state of hibernation, during which all bodily functions are slowed and aging, as well as progression of any illness slows to a near stop.

In the film "Avatar", a common situation in the film's (imaginary) future, as it is today, is lack of funds to pursue medical treatment. In the plot of the box-office record-shattering film, a young Marine suffers a spinal injury leaving him unable to move his lower body. He is put into suspended animation, "cold storage"- in the hopes of an affordable, future cure. However, he is revived when his twin brother, a scientist, dies before he can be sent to Pandora. The young man is offered his twin's job in the dangerous mining outpost so he can earn enough money to pursue eventual treatment. He hopes to earn enough money to purchase some kind of regenerative medicine (presumably, still under some form of extended patent protection 150 years in the future) from "The Corporation".


"Suspended animation

"Suspended animation is the slowing of life processes by external means without termination. Breathing, heartbeat, and other involuntary functions may still occur, but they can only be detected by artificial means"

Washington, Massachusetts Doctors Making Strides in Slowing Life Processes To A Fraction Of Normal: Medical Care In The Near Future.


Organ transplant
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An organ transplant is the moving of an organ from one body to another, or from a donor site on the patient's own body, for the purpose of replacing the recipient's damaged or absent organ. Organs that can be transplanted are the heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine, thymus[9], and skin. Tissues include bones, tendons, cornea, heart valves, and veins. Worldwide, the kidneys are the most commonly transplanted organs.

Transplants and other advances of 20th century medicine have for decades offered dramatic improvements in status to patients, but frequently are considered "experimental" or too costly and are not covered by insurers, especially when a patient's insurer is an "affordable" "consumer driven health plan". Many American with serious illness today are not considered suitable transplant candidates because of inadequate or no insurance.

In addition, a transplant patient must take immunosuppressive drugs for life, drugs that can be expensive in the US, and which also open patients to greatly increased risk of infections. This increases their medical risk and paradoxically, apparently also makes them into "uninsurables".

US transplant policy limits access to organ transplants to those likely to be able to pay and keep paying. Despite the fact that the uninsured make up a disproportionately large percentage of organ donors, I have read that virtually no American organ transplant recipients are uninsured.

Note: US hospitals and doctors often do perform transplants for critically ill (and probably often uninsured) children from foreign countries. I don't know if they also provide each patient with a lifetime supply of anti-rejection medication.

I am not sure what the degree or factors driving acceptance as an organ recipient are considered when they evaluate one's consumer driven health care (high deductible, limited health plans) or if Medicaid patients qualify as "insured" in this selection.

Also, when critically ill and uninsured, many treatable, but impoverished, uninsured patients are sent home (or to a homeless shelter) when it becomes obvious that they can no longer pay for care.

This raises the question: Would cryonic suspension solve this very serious problem for millions of sick people with inadequate financing?

Clearly, suspended animation will be available fairly soon, as a medical procedure.

It will then, of course, be used to extend the lives of insured or wealthy patients waiting for advances in regenerative medicine or suitable transplant organs.

But, the technique may inherently not be so expensive or so labor intensive that facilities could not be built to maintain large numbers of patient in suspension - similar to the increasingly popular self-storage facilities many Americans use to store their personal belongings during times of transition.

I am sure that all will agree that placing critically ill underinsured or uninsured patients into suspended animation, until such time that their families could afford to treat them, would be a preferable outcome to simply watching them die, when "help is on the way", a few years in the future.

Perhaps someday, we could "hope", they would ALL be revived?

Here is more from the Wikipedia article about suspended animation, etc.


"An article in the 22 April 2005. issue of the scientific journal Science reports success towards inducing suspended animation-like hypothermia in mice. The findings are significant, as mice do not hibernate in nature. The laboratory of Mark B. Roth at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, placed the mice in a chamber containing 80 ppm hydrogen sulfide (sewer gas) for a duration of 6 hours. The mice's core body temperature dropped to 13 degrees Celsius and metabolism, as assayed by carbon dioxide production and oxygen use, decreased 10-fold.[5]"

"On 9 October 2006, the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston announced they had been able to hibernate mice using the same method. Their heart rate was slowed down from 500 to 200 beats per minute, respiration fell from 120 to 25 breaths per minute and body temperature dropped to 30°C (natural: 39°C). After 2 hours of breathing air without hydrogen sulfide the mice returned to normal. Further studies are needed to see if the gas had poisonous effects on the brain.[6]" (indications are this technique may not work in man without brain damage)

"There are many research projects currently investigating how to achieve "induced hibernation" in humans.[9][10] This ability to hibernate humans would be useful for a number of reasons, such as saving the lives of seriously ill or injured people by temporarily putting them in a state of hibernation until treatment can be given.

NASA is also casually interested in possibly putting astronauts in hibernation when going on very long space journeys, though they are not (currently) funding any research to this effect."

"There are cases of accidental human hibernation. The most recent is the case of Mitsutaka Uchikoshi, a Japanese man who survived the cold for 24 days in 2006 without food or water when he fell into a hypothermic state similar to hibernation.[11]"


Originally posted to Andiamo on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 09:58 AM PDT.

Poll

If you or a loved one was critically ill, and underfinanced, would you consider hibernation until health reform makes revival affordable?

54%6 votes
9%1 votes
36%4 votes

| 11 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

    by Andiamo on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 10:33:00 AM PDT

  •  I can answer some of your questions. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Charles CurtisStanley

    Medicaid patients are definitely considered "insured" for the purposes of transplantation. In fact, there are many stories on the kidney boards of people who have had to deliberately make themselves indigent, including either getting a divorce from employed spouses or those employed spouses having to quit their jobs, just so that they could qualify for Medicaid and get a transplant. In many cases, these are people under 65 who live in states where they are prohibited from buying a Medigap policy to cover the 20% that Medicare expects the patient to cough up. One of these people, about whom I have written, is a young father.

    Since quite a number of states say in law that insurance companies don't have to cover anyone (by which they mean "disabled persons") under 65 for a Medigap policy, the insurance companies, of course, choose not to. In some states, the insurance companies are mandated to cover anyone of any age who qualifies for Medicare for any reason except having ESRD. The law even in these states tells insurance companies that it is optional to cover those with ESRD, so most choose not to. There is one policy in my state that I can get. I will pay twice as much as a senior, no matter how healthy or unhealthy the senior, and it's the worst policy in the state, covering the least (hospital only). But at least I can get one, and that's better than none.

    So not only does Medicaid cover transplantation and the anti-rejection medications needed to keep the transplant, getting into a financial state that qualifies one for Medicaid is a strategy for qualifying for a transplant that is discussed on the dialysis boards.

    With regard to immunosuppressive drugs, it is not only infections and every cold, flu, or other bug that's "going around" that you are at risk for getting. Some mechanism or other that helps protect the body against cancer is also suppressed, and transplant patients are at a much increased risk of contracting and dying of cancer. I know that the two things that kill off my family most are cancer and heart attacks, and yes, I am concerned.

    Transplant programs thoroughly evaluate your private insurance, including making sure that you are covered for transplantation, specifically for the kind that you need, before they will even evaluate you. Then there are other hoops to jump through: the psych evaluation, the social evaluation (do you have the support network that you will need to cover things like time off work if you're working, giving you rides before you're allowed to drive again (about a month in the case of kidney transplants), are you able to take medicines on a set schedule, and how do you keep them straight at home, etc.), whether you'll be able to keep appointments so that you can be followed for the life of the graft by that particular transplant program, and the financial evaluation to ensure that the anti-rejection drugs are covered or that you can pay for them past the time Medicare stops covering you, in the case of ESRD patients under 65. I'll give you an example of what I mean. I recently called my insurance company to find out if they covered The Cleveland Clinic as a preferred provider. They do. Knowing that The Cleveland Clinic has pioneered a kidney extraction technique that lets the donor recover in as little as half the time, I inquired there. I found out that they would release my donor from the hospital and send him or her back home in a few days, but that they wanted me to remain in Cleveland for 2-3 months and return every 3 months for a followup visit. I do not live anywhere near Cleveland, OH; I live about an hour from Seattle. Going back to Cleveland every few months is a hardship, and staying in an area where I don't know anybody for the first few months that my transplant is in place would be a major hardship. I don't know why, other than transplant programs taking an almost proprietary interest in their patients, I couldn't be followed by the University of Washington, which has a fine transplant program and is where my nephrologist practices, but no. They don't transfer their transplant patients to another program any more than the U does. That was more or less the end of that.

    Medicare covers transplantation as well, and if someone is disabled and on Medicare because of it, or over 65, Medicare certainly will cover transplantation. What the transplant program wants to know then is if you can afford the meds, and if you have coverage for the 20% that is your share (without limit). Many do not, especially those under 65, so Medicaid is often the only way they are going to get their lives back or have their lives saved.

    Living kidney donor needed; type B, O, or incompatible (with paired donation). Drop me a note (see profile).

    by Kitsap River on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 05:39:48 PM PDT

    •  That is terrible but it "makes sense" GATS wise (0+ / 0-)
      Basically, anybody who might pay seems to be forced to pay, even children. GATS doesn't allow means testing - if we trigger GATS, we may have to get rid of HCR and a lot of our health "service" related social programs.

      Like many here, I myself might be temped to brush this off - not take it seriously IF THE HEALTHCARE EXPERTS IN OTHER COUNTRIES DIDN'T KEEP INSISTING THAT ITS THE BIGGEST THREAT TO THEIR EXISTING PUBLIC HEALTH PROGRAMS IN THE WORLD THAT EXISTS.

      Did you catch that?

      The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

      by Andiamo on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:53:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hang in there! (0+ / 0-)
        Its good that Medicare and Medicaid currently cover transplants! Its a shame, though that so many millions of people would have to be ruined financialy BEFORE they can get help, imagine how many millions of people who not only are removed from the work force by government policy, but also are never compensated for the years they might have spent getting an education, etc.

        If they want to reduce the size of the workforce to get young people off the streets and into jobs, there are far better ways to do it than health insurance policy.

        The NAFTA-like GATS and its ratchet effect is an potential minefield for public health care! It is SO important that EVERY Democrat needs to read up on it, NOW!

        by Andiamo on Mon Mar 22, 2010 at 06:57:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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