I wanted to like the original Bioshock, but I truly hated the game because of the Vita Chambers. Wow, a game where you can't die? Brilliant idea.
IIRC, it's not free - you have to pay a monetary penalty. The equivalent in Bioshock Infinite
definitely isn't free, and still exists in 1999 Mode.
They added the ability to turn off Vita Chambers in a patch. Alternately, you could also reload your game whenever you died, for the same effect.