All the weird ways the 1% are trying to cheat death
“The more money people have, the more they’re scared of dying,” declares Kirsty Ettrick. She would know. Ettrick is the founder of London Medical Concierge, a bespoke private medical service that helps ultra high net worth individuals access premier medical specialists with discretion, wherever and whenever they want to.
Chipped a tooth three hours before filming a scene for your new movie? A dentist is on their way over and it’ll be fixed by the time you’re on set. Had a mental breakdown and need a therapist in your house, stat, minus the paparazzi shots? LMC will sneak one in for you dressed as cleaning staff. Need to board your private jet but know you’re at risk of a heart attack, a la Logan Roy in Succession? No worries, your cardiologist will fly out with you.
It’s a dedicated service to make sure one percenters are literally living their best lives, and living them for as long as they possibly can. It makes sense, when you’ve got that much wealth, the idea of losing it to anyone – even the grim reaper – would freak you out, so the ultra wealthy do their absolute best to avoid the inevitable, or prolong their time on earth. It’s like the old school sex education motto, but for death: abstain or delay.
Seeing as abstaining is impossible, Ettrick is in the more realistic business of delaying. London Medical Concierge can’t promise its services will prolong your life, but it gives you the best chance you’ve got. “I do think that having a concierge, getting your blood screened every month, having someone monitoring your health, having someone who can get you into the Cleveland Clinic [a high end private hospital in SW1] at 2am in the morning – I think that can be life prolonging.”
And if we take the case of Succession’s Logan Roy, care like this may have literally saved his life. Instead, this week, we witnessed his lavish, state funeral-esque send off, as his body was transported by a convoy of modern, blacked out Cadillacs and limousines to a grand, $5 million mausoleum where he’ll lay to rest for eternity. The Roy siblings discussed joining him in his gigantic tomb upon their deaths, but the ever off-kilter Connor said he was more interested in cryogenic freezing.
As it turns out, this isn’t just a Connorism: there’s a laboratory in Arizona called Alcor that has over 100 dead bodies “on ice” in the hope of resurrecting them when the technology is developed, and an even bigger waitlist. “We have some of the wealthiest, most prominent technology people on earth that have ever lived, that are members of Alcor,” says James Arrowood, co-CEO at Alcor, one of the only non-profit organisations in the world that engages in “cryonics,” where humans are frozen in liquid nitrogen after death, with the aim of revival later on. James and Alcor aren’t allowed to disclose their exclusive list of freezees (humans in “stasis”, as James calls it) or will-be-freezees, but it’s been rumoured to include famous baseball player Ted Williams and bitcoin pioneer Hal Finney.
An Alcor membership with the end goal of freezing your whole body costs around $230,000 [£186,000], or, alternatively, you can freeze just your head (which James calls being a “neuro only”) for $90,000. James is a “neuro only” himself because he has a connective tissue disorder that would render his body relatively useless even if he was preserved and brought back to life successfully in the future – he hopes instead to have “replicated organs” when he awakes. The benefits of being neuro only are that it’s cheaper, easier (freezing a head takes up much less space than a whole body) and comes with the chance that you’ll have a new, young body attached to your head when you wake up.
And while Alcor’s lab may be based in Arizona (conveniently one state over from the fictional Connor Roy’s private ranch, Austerlitz) its memberships are very much international. Sure, it’ll cost you a bit more, but Alcor has teams based in the UK who will rush to your bedside as soon as they know you’re unwell and start the cooling process the minute you’re legally dead, then help transport your body across borders to be frozen in the Arizona lab.
Thought we’d reached peak crazy? It’s only matched by the things billionaires are doing while they’re still alive. The 45-year-old Silicon Valley tech mogul Bryan Johnson has made headlines as of late not due to his business ventures, but because he’s been getting blood transfusions from his 17-year-old son in the hope of staying young forever. In a YouTube video documenting the endeavour, Johnson acknowledged “experimental, invasive therapy” with “some level of risk,” though it appears to be working: Johnson’s medical team have estimated that he now has the fitness level and lung capacity of an 18-year-old (and the skin of a man aged 28).
It’s a process that legendary entrepreneur and Paypal co-founder (alongside Elon Musk) Peter Thiel has expressed interest in before. “I stand against confiscatory taxes, totalitarian collectives, and the ideology of the inevitability of the death of every individual,” he wrote in libertarian journal Cato Unbound back in 2009. It’s unknown whether he actually engaged in this procedure, but he has admitted to taking human growth hormone pills, and expressed a wish to live until the age of 120.
So what happens when, ultimately, the rich do die? At some point, we all need to stare death in the face and, unless you’re into cryonics like Connor Roy, that death is guaranteed to be pretty permanent. But that doesn’t mean the 1 percenters will be headed for the dirt and maggots like the rest of us. Matthew Lymn Rose, managing director of fifth generation funeral business A.W Lymn, has experience with planning high end funerals where timber coffins just aren’t going to cut it.
“We have a solid stainless steel, hand polished casket imported from America available here on site. And we also have a solid 48 ounce, bronze, hand polished with 24 karat gold plated fittings casket – the same casket as James Brown and Michael Jackson – available too, which retails around about £35,000 pounds.”
And if that’s not good enough, you can get your grave – as in, the actual hole in the ground – lined with marble to form an airtight, watertight chamber for your coffin underground so your body is forever perfectly preserved, save for the natural decaying process that happens in your own body. “It’s a solid bronze airtight seal which is locked with a key,” Matthew confirms, “it is made to stand the test of time.” This is especially useful if you’re buried with your Chanel handbag, diamond earrings or Rolex watch (all things Matthew has seen), lest your family fret about pesky graverobbers. One man was actually buried within his own car, he loved it that much. So even if you can’t cheat death, you don’t have to give up all your nice possessions.
Death, once the great leveller, is becoming less and less so. Especially if all those cryonics people wake up in 100 years and make us coffin dwellers look like idiots.