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 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"
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, 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."
"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." (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. 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."