My paternal grandmother is dying of cancer (not brain cancer). She is still relatively healthy, and is taking chemo, but there is little hope of remission (and even if that does happen, she'll probably die of heart failure fairly soon). Her current plan is to be cremated and have the ashes buried in a graveyard (in my opinion, the worst of both of the "standard" approaches, but that's not the point of this post).
I would prefer if she were cryopreserved, but am unsure how to even begin to broach the subject. I also have no idea how to convince her. She is not particularly religious, but is concerned with leaving as much money for my grandfather (and later my parents and me) as possible. I have previously discussed cryonics with my parents; my father brushed off the idea and my mom looked into it but dismissed the idea because the future isn't likely to want her (I find this argument ridiculous on several grounds). This means that I can't count on them to help talk to my grandmother. I may be able to talk to my grandfather first, but this would probably not be much of an asset: he is into several different conspiracy theories (the most recent ones center around the world secretly being controlled by the "elites" who use the U.S. President, U.K. Prime Minister, etc. as figurative puppets), but my grandmother doesn't seem to believe these and probably wouldn't listen much to his talk of cryonics either.
Any suggestions of how to broach the topic or convince her once the topic is broached would be appreciated. I am currently at my grandparents' house, but am leaving less than a day after posting this (most of which will be spent at the local nighttime, and thus asleep). I would prefer not to upset her, both for obvious reasons and because I may not be able to bring myself to bring it up on the day we depart if it will cause us to leave on a bad note.
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comment by Epiphany
· score: 2 (2 votes) · LW
New icebreaker & rebuttals:
"If there was a technology that might save your life, would you consider it?"
This is going to get an almost definite yes.
If no: Ask her "So, you WANT to die?" - this is likely to snap her out of whatever fog she's in if she's still got a significant will to live. Ask that here. If she shows enough will to live, ask the first question again, you may be able to continue. If she actually wants to die, which is not inconceivable for a person in pain, obviously stop here, determine why, and talk it out.
"Is your life important enough that even if it's not 100% guaranteed to work, you would want to try it anyway?"
Another almost definitely yes question. At this point, you've actually gotten her to agree to getting it, based on the pure logic behind that choice, without the bias of knowing what the technology is. It will be hard for her to take it back later for that reason - people feel a strong need to behave in a way that's consistent from one moment to the next, and once they've admitted to agreeing with a logical line of reasoning like this one, they rarely find a way to take that back such that it qualifies as consistent behavior.
Now it's a matter of dealing with her objections. Objections are probably going to be cost, and what she could give to others instead of taking it for herself. I'll focus on the "giving to others" questions because keeping it is N/A, she's going to lose the money if she dies (she could invest it so it will hopefully grow while she's frozen...) anyway:
"Do you really think the people who love you would rather have your money, or would we rather have YOU?"
If she isn't convinced:
"Hey brothers / sisters / family, if you had a choice, what would you rather have? Her money, or her, herself?"
They will all say "her." Not saying "her" will out them as sociopaths. They are going to say "her". Period.
If they're not available:
"If your family had a choice, what would they rather have? You, or all your money?"
If she doesn't think they want her, call one of them and ask the question.
The person will say yes.
"If even one of them said yes, would they be worth it?"
If she's still wondering about the others:
"If the others would rather have the money than you, do they really love you enough to deserve YOUR money?"
"Everyone would rather have you, not your money. Knowing we'd rather have you, would you be willing to spend all your money on a chance of saving you?"
Of course the answer to this is "yes". Unless she's in HUGE incredible pain and has been that way for so long she can't even remember what it's like to enjoy life anymore. Once again, bigger problem, stop here, address that first.
"Ok guys, this isn't a guarantee, but there's a chance that it could work, that we'd be able to keep her here."
Now you can pick a figure twice as big as what it would cost to get her frozen, or pick the entirety of her savings, or whatever, and say "If it would cost (entirety of savings) for your family to have you, would you spend it?"
She will probably say "yes" at this point, if she's emotional, then likely to feel all touched and emotional about everyone wanting her and not her money. If no, bargain with her. "What if it only costs 75% of that... 50%..."
When she seems willing to spend:
"Good news, it's only going to cost you (x amount, prepare it in advance, if unsure, over promise and under deliver)!"
Now she will surely ask what it is. Be sure you have the sign-up form ready! That she has the opportunity to sign immediately is of critical importance here. If she hesitates:
"I know because I've (seen this happen / talked to a doctor / have some other good reason) that people who are really sick tend to lose mental facilities at some point before they die because their body gets so tired (my grandma who died of cancer zonked out soon after I talked to her, you can reference me and honestly say "I've heard of this happening to cancer patients." No she did not have brain cancer.). This can happen suddenly (yes, it was sudden). If you don't sign this today, we could come back tomorrow and you might not have legal authority to sign things anymore... they need your consent for this and you're going to lose that any day now. If you sign now, you can cancel it later if you want but if you don't sign, and you die, you're gone forever. Signing now is the safest way, don't you think?"
"You have x days to cancel (look it up first). How many days do you have to sign?"
"Which number is bigger?"
(hand over the form again)
If they/she pesters you to say what it is before you've gotten them agreeing on a logical basis:
"There are a couple different options I've been doing a lot of research. We need to focus on whether she's going to choose to live because we don't have time to get sidetracked by all the research - we can do that part later. I just want to focus on saving her life right now, that makes sense, right?"
Note: Try looking up anti-angiogenesis if you legitimately want a second idea for extending life. It's not very relevant in her case, and I don't know if they've finished the formal research on it, but it's technically a possibility one might research.
If continuously pestered:
"A lot of people haven't even heard this stuff, there are new treatments, I can't just say what it is, that would take a lot of time." (launch straight into questions again)
"It's too complicated to explain right now, I'll explain it all once the first priority is taken care of." (launch straight into questions again)
"I can't explain that right now, the reason why will be apparent when I'm done, ok?" (A little ok on the end of a sentence can sometimes go a long way.)
"There are so many options, I just need to make sure that she wants to live, find out a few more things about while she wants, then I can pick the best option and I'll explain that one first, okay?"
For this reason, it'll be easier if nobody else there at the time but you and her, but that should be enough brush-offs to get you wading safely through a gauntlet if they are.
The above method uses a sales technique known as "question selling". It doesn't work if you don't stick primarily to questions. The idea behind it is this: You can't decide for them, or make them decide a certain way, but you can ask them to consider each piece of data, ask them to make all of the smaller decisions that lead up to the big decision, and then when they decide, they'll be making an informed decision. This works beautifully for logical choices.
The most difficult objection:
The amount of money it costs to get frozen could feed two starving African children for the rest of their lives. My permanent death, if the money was donated instead, would have a very good chance of saving two people's entire lives. Putting me in cryo would only be a chance of saving one person's life. Unless we had good reasons to believe that I would save two lives in the future, or have a significant chance to save millions of lives, or something that's comparably life-saving, I would choose to donate the money instead.
If that happens, whip out a donation form for whatever her/your favorite charities are (have it ready!), and get her to sign up for that donation right then, right there.
Making her put her money where her mouth is will do one of two things:
A. Make her immediately realize she's not serious about giving up this chance to survive, and get her back on the topic of saving her life.
B. Give you the opportunity to save two lives. That's twice the goal! This will make it much easier to let her go because some good came out of it.
I'm still not sure it's ethically correct to explain to you how I think you can encourage your mom to sign up for cryo. But I view this as an ethical call that is not mine to make. Whether you try this is your ethical call, whether she takes it is hers. For all I know she's some kind of Melinda Gates or something.
Good luck to you, and I hope that there is more good in the world because of her decision, whichever one it was.
Edit: Come to think of it, if you're in the position to do this, an option C would be to say "If you sign up for cryo, I will go out and save two people's lives." Be ready to support this with a plan though, they might just brush you off thinking you'd say anything to save them. It might seem tempting to plan to lie in this event. I'd like to propose a worse possibility: You lie, and then because you didn't prepare to prove to them that you're going to save two lives to keep them, the person chooses against cryo and dies.
Not saying DanielH is going to lie, he already turned down the "dark arts" but it's not like he's the only person reading this.
comment by Epiphany
· score: 0 (0 votes) · LW
Illegal frozen bodies rebuttal:
"Morgues have been keeping them frozen for years. They're not illegal." (I'm pretty sure this is true.)
If it's about having dead bodies on your property:
"Cemeteries are full of bodies. Cemeteries are totally legal, and have been legal for how many thousands of years? Even if we sprinkle you in the yard, then there's a dead body in the yard. You've got to go somewhere, right?"
If it's about resource distribution between living and dead people:
"Rich people spend how much on caviar and cars? That's not illegal."
"The cryogenics movement will argue that if they can't freeze the bodies, those people are gone forever. What happens if they find a cure for them? We'll look back on it, looking at how many people we lost. That will be looked on as a huge tragedy, like a massacre. That's what the families of these cryogenics customers will argue. Are they going to take the risk that their actions will be perceived as a huge tragedy or a massacre? No. Whatever their problem is, they'll look for other ways of solving it."
comment by Epiphany
· score: 2 (2 votes) · LW
"There is new information in the field of cryonics, do you mind if I make sure you know the important pieces of info?"
(That gets you space to talk about whatever technological advancements you want to talk about or whatever, get her thinking about it, and make sure she's informed.)
If refused: "From my point of view, this is something that could save your life. If it can save your life, then no matter how small the chance is, I'm ethically obligated to talk about it with you, right?" (Make sure to phrase it as a question.)
(Even if she refuses that, you'll feel at peace with your conscience because you did what you could. Whatever she says, it will most likely help you let her go.)
If brushed off: "I know this sounds far out but this discussion is technically a matter of life and death, am I right?"
Wait for the answer.
If "yes", proceed.
If not, back to "Maybe I forgot to mention this particular piece of cryonics information..."
Loop until "yes".
"What if I get cryo, and other people you know get cryo. If you woke up and we're all there, and we all want you there, would you want to be there, too?"
We really have to think about what keeping people alive longer is going to do to the environment. We might freeze all these people, then the environment degrades further to the point where resources are very scarce, and then find that we're competing with bodies in cryo chambers for our resources... Living people who are poor, disadvantaged and sick may suffer or even die if they are made to compete with rich, advantaged folk for medical or other resources.
I have no idea what the most ethical choice is here. You will decide for yourself in any case. So I presented you with both sides.
comment by DanielH
· score: 0 (0 votes) · LW
This can help when a discussion is started, but it cannot really help start the discussion. It is useful, though, and I'll remember it. Thanks.