Judge Rules That 14-Year-Old Girl Can Be Cryogenically Frozen

Friday, 18 November 2016 - 6:05PM
Science News
Friday, 18 November 2016 - 6:05PM
Judge Rules That 14-Year-Old Girl Can Be Cryogenically Frozen
In a case that can only be described as historic - a British 14-year old terminal cancer patient, known only as JS, has won the right to be cryogenically frozen.

The legal process started when JS sent a heartfelt letter to the court, detailing her intentions:

Opening quote
"I'm only 14 years old and I don't want to die, but I know I am going to. I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years' time. I don't want to be buried underground. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance. This is my wish."
Closing quote


To add another twist to the already exceptional case, the girl's parents are divorced, and while her mother is fully supportive of her daughter's last wishes, her father had his misgivings. However, JS's father had not seen her for eight years, so the judge, Justice Peter Jackson, chose to rule in favor of giving her mother full rights to the disposal of her body. "I was moved by the valiant way in which she was facing her predicament," said the judge, who also commented on the implications of the case:

Opening quote
"It is no surprise that this application is the only one of its kind to have come before the courts in this country - and probably anywhere else. It may be thought that the events in this case suggest the need for proper regulation of cryonic preservation in this country if it is to happen in the future."
Closing quote


On October 17, JS died peacefully knowing that her wishes would be carried out. Her body was frozen postmortem and taken to a storage facility in the US, but not without serious misgivings from the girl's doctors. "This situation gives rise to serious legal and ethical issues for the hospital trust, which has to act within the law and has duties to its other patients and to its staff," Jackson told The Telegraph. Luckily, in this case, the hospital trust was willing to help, though it stressed that it was in no way endorsing cryonics as a viable post-mortem option. Jackson adds, "On the contrary, all the professionals feel deep unease about it." 

And unfortunately for JS, cryonics expert Barry Fuller says that the technology to successfully preserve a human body is at least 20 years away. "Successful cryo-preservation means that the cells are not frozen, they are very shrunken. They contain no ice, because ice will kill them." While the process is currently used to preserve cells and small tissue, it is not yet optimized for whole organs, let alone an entire body. Fuller adds that there is no "objective evidence" that it's possible to recover bodies from cryonic preservation.

I guess we'll see in a couple hundred years.
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