Cryonics Presents Chilling Question for Life Insurers
Wed, 16 Oct 1996 08:06:47 -0400

It so happens that my docket is dominated by life insurance marketing cases
these days. I was joking around with a couple of my partners last night
about this subject (do we need to get a life, or what!?!). We were
commenting on the relative ease of life insurance _claims_ handling, compared
with the challenges posed by claims on liability insurance: "Is the guy
dead?" I asked, "Then pay the claim." (Naturally, the issues _can_ be more
complex than this. See, e.g. "Double Indemnity".)

But a real question is presented to cryonicists by this rhetorical question.
If cryonicists are right and "reanimation" lies in their future, then life
insurance proceeds paid upon their "deanimation" might be at risk. Will the
Acme Life Insurance Company be entitled to recover policy death benefits upon
reanimation, with interest? Perhaps more chilling, might a life insurance
adjuster be entitled to question the fact of death at the time the claim is

In typical lawyerly fashion, I can see both sides of this question. I could
certainly argue with conviction for a rule of decision that would favor
cryonics: "Death" means "death under the generally accepted medical standards
at the time of ‘deanimation'". But perhaps a word of caution is in order for
those cryonicists who would avoid using the term "dead" to describe

Maybe there's a silver lining to the cloud imposed by this question: Perhaps
life insurers could someday provide a source of funding for cryonics research
if a _partial_ recovery of death benefits were agreed as part of the
insurance contract for policyholders committed to suspension?

Greg Burch <> <> or
"It is the fundamental theory of all the more recent American
law ... that the average citizen is half-witted, and hence not to be
trusted to either his own devices or his own thoughts."
-- H.L. Mencken