Re: Cryonics Presents Chilling Question for Life Insurers
Thu, 17 Oct 1996 19:46:47 -0400

In a message dated 96-10-17 12:44:50 EDT, writes:

> When somebody is cryonically suspended you can never consider it a
> that the person will be revived. Currently we can't unfreeze, period.

Right. That's why no one is _paying_ me to ponder this question yet ...

> Even
> when and if such problems are solved there remains the possibility that
> cause of death can never be fixed.

After the passage of the (usually brief) "contestibility period", cause of
death is basically irrelevant to the payment of a life insurance death
benefit (except for on-going suicide exclusions and certain cause-related
benefit multipliers).

> So when somebody is frozen, you can't
> know whether they'll eventually end up alive or dead, and (this is the

My questions were really aimed at a time we hope to see when reanimation is a
more probable event, presumably because it has been successfully demonstrated
on at least a higher-order whole organism. At that point there would still
not be _certainty_ about reanimation of any particular individual human, but
the _possibility_ or reanimation might become an actuarially significant

> you *never* will know that they will remain dead forever.

Knowing things _for sure_ isn't the business of insurance. Insurance is
about probabilities applied to large groups as risk-classes. Of course
"death" is now taken as a certainty by life insurance companies, but _life
expectancy_ is treated as a probabilistic phenomenon.

> So the only time
> you could reasonably pay out would be at the normal death/freezing. If
> life companies maintain they should never pay for somebody who (at the
> of benefits) may well never live again they'll be laughed out of court.

There are theories that were once laughed out of court that are now taken as
bedrock foundations of legal doctrine. As Justice Holmes said, "the law is
not a brooding omniprescence in the sky". Of course denying a benefit now
for a cryonically suspended human would be untenable -- but it might not be
if a whole mammal had been successfully frozen and reanimated.

> Since all the life insurance companies have planned and priced their
> without accounting for suspension/reanimation they will just maintain that
> policy. It's no problem for them, and there really is no other logical
> to handle it.

When actuarially significant facts change, insurance policy wordings,
underwriting and ratings change. It happened with AIDS. The issue I raise
is admittedly less clear-cut than that example, but it could have an impact
-- almost certainly _will_ have an impact if succesful human reanimation
becomes a regular event. (I don't even refer at this point to the questions
that would be raised by a succesfull "destructive" upload ... essentially
similar issues, presumably.)

As for this question being "no problem", it seems that it could be if people
were free to choose to be suspended at a point short of their otherwise
"natural" time of death as a means to improve the chances of reanimation;
likewise with "destructive" uploads (mortality tables would become skewed).
Beyond this, insurance companies tend to not pay claims that don't fall
within the terms of their coverage. If the line between life and death
becomes blurred, the terms of coverage could become ambiguous. Actuaries and
claims adjusters hate ambiguity. (Lawyers love it.) Who knows, maybe they'd
take the "salvage" approach jokingly suggested by Dejan Vucinic in another

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