Girl's body frozen after death - a legal first for UK

Cryostats or insulated tanks for long-term patient storage in liquid nitrogen at the Cyronics Institute in Michigan, the US. A British girl who died last month has become the 144th person to be frozen there.
Cryostats or insulated tanks for long-term patient storage in liquid nitrogen at the Cyronics Institute in Michigan, the US. A British girl who died last month has become the 144th person to be frozen there.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

14-year-old with rare form of cancer wrote to judge saying she wished to live longer

LONDON • A British girl who died after a terminal illness won the right to have her body frozen in an unprecedented ruling.

The 14-year-old girl from London had written to a judge explaining she wanted a chance to "live longer" after suffering from a rare form of cancer.

She had researched and decided to undergo cryonics, the process through which people's bodies are frozen in the hope they will be brought back to life with the help of future medical advancements.

"I am only 14 years old and I don't want to die but I know I am going to die," she wrote to the judge. "I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up - even in hundreds of years' time."

The girl, known only as JS according to The Guardian, launched legal action to request that her mother, who supported the child's wishes, be the only person allowed to make decisions about the disposal of her body.

Her parents are divorced and the teenager's father initially objected to his daughter's plan.

SECOND CHANCE

I am only 14 years old and I don't want to die but I know I am going to die. I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up - even in hundreds of years' time.

JS, who had written to a judge explaining she wanted a chance to "live longer" after suffering from a rare form of cancer.

Judge Peter Jackson ruled in the girl's favour in October following a private hearing at the High Court of England and Wales in London.

The girl was too ill to attend the hearing and has since died, with her remains being taken to the United States and cryogenically frozen.

The Cryonics Institute issued a statement saying the teenager had arrived at their facility and was "packed in dry ice" on Oct 25, "approximately eight days after death". She became the institute's 144th patient.

Its minimum fee for cryopreservation is US$28,000 (S$39,900), according to its website, and The Times reported the cost to the girl's family was US$46,000.

The case was not reported on before yesterday, in keeping with the wishes of the teenager, who also asked that no one involved be identified.

Mr Jackson said his decision was based on the dispute between the girl's parents and the best outcome for the child's welfare, not on the science itself, in what he described as an unprecedented ruling.

"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," he said.

"It is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law - perhaps most of all to family law," Mr Jackson added.

The judge described the case as a "tragic combination" of childhood illness and family conflict, while praising the girl for the "valiant way" she approached the situation.

In her letter to the judge, the 14-year-old wrote: "I don't want to be buried underground. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they may find a cure for my cancer and wake me up.

"I want to have this chance. This is my wish."

The girl's solicitor, Ms Zoe Fleetwood, said her client had called Mr Jackson her "hero" after being told of the court's decision shortly before her death on Oct 17.

"By Oct 6, the girl knew that her wishes were going to be followed. That gave her great comfort," she told BBC Radio 4.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'Girl's body frozen after death - a legal first for UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe