Tim Burton’s feature-length version of his 1984 short film, Frankenweenie, was released this past Friday to very little fanfare. The film under-performed in theaters, but it’s curious to imagine if the premise of Frankenweenie — a boy re-animating his dead dog — could actually happen in real life. At some point, will doctors and scientists be able to bring back humans after they’ve passed on?
In an interview with Katie Calutti of Movies.com, Ronald Stram M.D., the director and founder of Stram Center for Integrative Medicine, addressed the subject of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and other examples of how realistic Hollywood lines up with the experiences of real medical professionals.
In essence, according to Dr. Stram, it is possible to bring people back from the dead but not in the manner Hollywood has led you to believe. By decreasing the body’s metabolism, humans can stay in a state of limbo in order for doctors to buy some time to save distressed persons. The good doctor also continues to suggest that, within the next 25 years, medical technology will progress to actually being able to bring someone back from the dead. Dr. Stram explains:
…we treat brain-injury patients or patients that have had a cardiac arrest by using hypothermia. And the benefit is quite extraordinary. Essentially, you lower patient’s temperatures… you put them in basically a hypothermic state. And by doing that, you decrease the metabolism. The idea of cryogenics is actually somewhat similar — that, if you’re going to freeze someone, you have to change their blood volume, because otherwise you’d cause damage to the system.
The interview evolves into a conversation about cryogenics and the validity of freezing someone to preserve them for a later time period. Dr. Stram talks about reports of freezing someone or putting them in a very low thermic state for a few days with the hope of re-animating them later. At the moment, the process would call for a re-warming of the body, which could lead the general shock of re-animation. That shock might ultimately kill the body in the process.