A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be frozen so she could be brought back to life, won an historic legal fight shortly before her death.
The girl, who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, was supported in her wish to be cryogenically preserved by her mother – but not by her father.
A High Court judge ruled that the girl’s mother should be allowed to decide what happened to the body.
The girl, who died in October, has now been taken to the US and frozen.
The details of her case have just been released.
The teenager – who cannot be named – and who lived in the London area, used the internet to investigate cryonics during the last months of her life.
Cryonics is the process of freezing and preserving a whole body in the hope that resuscitation and a cure are possible in the distant future.
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What does cryopreservation do to human bodies?
She wrote to the judge explaining that she wanted “to live longer” and did not want “to be buried underground”.
She wrote: “I think being cryopreserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up – even in hundreds of years’ time.”
The judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, visited the girl in hospital and said he was moved by “the valiant way in which she was facing her predicament”.
His ruling, he said, was not about the rights or wrongs of cryonics but about a dispute between parents over the disposal of their daughter’s body.
Cryonics is a controversial procedure and no-one yet knows if it is possible to revive people once their bodies are frozen.
There are facilities in the US and Russia where bodies can be preserved in liquid nitrogen at very low temperatures (less than -130C) – but not in the UK.
The cost of freezing a body for an infinite amount of time is estimated to be around £37,000.
The teenager’s letter to the judge
“I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done.
“I am only 14 years old and I don’t want to die but I know I am going to die.
“I think being cryopreserved 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 may find a cure for my cancer and wake me up.
“I want to have this chance.
“This is my wish.”
The girls’ parents were divorced and the girl had not had any contact with her father for six years before she became ill.
While the girl’s mother supported her wishes to have her body frozen, her father was against it.
He said: “Even if the treatment is successful and she is brought back to life in let’s say 200 years, she may not find any relative and she might not remember things and she may be left in a desperate situation given that she is only 14 years old and will be in the United States of America.”
Although he then changed his mind, saying he respected his daughter’s decision, he subsequently wanted to see his daughter’s body after her death – something to which she would not agree.
The judge said the girl’s application was the only one of its kind to have come before a court in England and Wales – and probably anywhere else.
Need for regulation
Mr Justice Jackson said the case was an example of science posing new questions to lawyers.
The girl died peacefully in October knowing that her remains would be frozen, but the judge said there had been problems on the day she died.
He said hospital staff and bosses had expressed concerns about the way the process of preparing her body for cryogenic preservation had been handled.
This was carried out by a voluntary group in the UK before her body was flown to the US for storage.
He suggested that ministers should consider “proper regulation” of cryonic preservation for the future.