The UK High Court allowed a 14-year-old girl (being named as JS for reporing restrictions) to have her body cryogenically preserved in the hope that she can be brought back to life at a later time, as per the girl’s wish.
The court ruled that the teenager’s mother, who supported the girl’s wish to be cryogenically preserved, should be the only person allowed to make decisions about the disposal of her body. Her estranged father had initially opposed her wishes.
During the last months of her life, the teenager, who had a rare form of cancer, used the internet to investigate cryonics and finally sent a letter to the court. Traversing through the novel situation, this landmark ruling paves the way for the courts to make prospective orders appointing a sole administrator of a child’s estate before a child dies, according to lawyers involved in the case.
“I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to. 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.”
– JS, in her letter to the Court.
The body of JS has now been preserved and transported from where she lived in London to the US, where it has been frozen “in perpetuity” by a commercial company at a cost of £37,000.
However, the lawyers from the father (who opposed the decision of her girl) argued that a person could not control the disposition of their body after his or her death. Citing the principles from Williams v Williams  LR 20 ChD 659, they stated that there may be a later change of circumstances that would undermine the decision, and that as a matter of policy the court may not wish to encourage similar applications.
The girl’s parents are divorced. She had lived with her mother for most of her life and had no face-to-face contact with her father since 2008. She resisted his attempts to get back in touch when he learnt of her illness in 2015.
“I was moved by the valiant way in which she was facing her predicament. 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 is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law, perhaps most of all to family law … No other parent has ever been put in [the] position [of JS’s father].”
Cryonic preservation is not regulated by the Human Tissue Act 2004 of the UK, which regulates the disposal of human remains, as it was not contemplated when the legislation was passed.
Read the verdict of the court –
About Cryogenic Preservation
Since the 1960s, Around 250 people have spent huge sums cryo-preserving their bodies so far. Thousands more have paid up to £150,000 to do the same when they die. But the process is hugely controversial, especially with scientists and doctors, because it has never been possible to successfully revive a human or any mammal frozen in this way.