A 14-year-old girl won the legal right to have her body cryogenically frozen, despite a dispute among her parents as what to do with her remains after she died. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, the girl hoped that in the future, there may be a cure for it, and then she could be revived. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence that this process can actually work yet.
The case was initially brought to court because of a disagreement between her parents about whether or not to respect the child’s wishes, who was too young to have her own will. While the mother was willing to fulfill her daughter’s desire to be cryogenically frozen, her estranged father was not convinced. Before the 14-year-old died last month, the court assessed the situation and ruled in favor of the girl.
The proceedings have only just been made public because the judge did not want to bring any undue stress or attention to the child while she was still alive. During the case, the girl was too sick to attend court, and so the judge visited her in hospital to make an assessment and better understand her request. The girl, known only as “JS”, also wrote a letter detailing her wishes. “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done,” JS wrote. “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.”
After remarking on how he was moved by the “valiant” way in which JS was facing her problem after his visit to her, Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled in her favor. By this point, her father had also come round to his daughter’s wishes, and after she passed away her body was preserved and then shipped to the US, where for £37,000 her body has been cryogenically frozen and will be stored indefinitely.
The case has highlighted yet another fascinating cross-over where science meets law, something that will only increase further as more advanced techniques such as CRISPR develop. “It is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law, perhaps most of all to family law,” said Mr Justice Peter Jackson during the ruling. “No other parent has ever been put in [the] position [of JS’s father]. A dispute about a parent being able to see his child after death would be momentous enough on its own if the case did not also raise the issue of cryonic preservation.”