This one is so stereotypically sci-fi that the
researchers involved don’t like to call it suspended animation. One of the
leading surgeons at the hospital where it’s being developed prefers to call it
“emergency preservation and resuscitation,” even though he admits that they are suspending life. Basically, the patient’s blood is
replaced by a very cold saline solution which creates a kind of induced
hypothermia, slowing all cellular activity to a near halt. In other words, it’s
like flipping the slow-motion switch on the shutdown of the body’s vital
systems, giving surgeons more time to fix the problem. According to the man who
invented the technique, Peter Rhee, the patients aren’t necessarily alive during
the procedure, but they’re not dead either.
In 2000, Rhee demonstrated this technique on pigs and it worked. The pigs
suffered massive hemorrhages before they were suspended, then they were treated
and “brought back to life.” In most cases, their hearts started again on their
own with no loss of cognitive or physical function. Now, Rhee and his team just
have to wait for the right human candidate. “After we did those experiments, the
definition of dead changed,” says Rhee.