A UK based girl identified as JS died from a rare form of cancer last month. Her battle to have her body cryogenically preserved was not reported until after her death, but the decision was hotly contested by her parents in court.
The Guardian reports that Justice Peter Jackson ruled that JS’s wishes would be respected, having spoken with the girl before her death. He said:
“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].”
JS’s mother supported the decision, but her father initially contested the idea of JS being frozen in hopes of one day being brought back to life when a cure for her cancer could potentially be found. JS and her father were estranged, and he had not seen her since she was seven. He eventually changed his mind, telling the court, “I respect the decisions [my daughter] is making. This is the last and only thing she has asked from me.”
JS’s parents are not wealthy, but raised the $37,000 required to preserve her in perpetuity, and her body will be sent to the U.S. for preservation. The first cryogenic preservation took place in the sixties and has only been performed a few hundred times. While cryogenic technology is used successfully for things like freezing sperm and embryos, the science around preserving bodies is contested. As Judge Jackson pointed out, the “scientific theory underlying cryonics is speculative and controversial, and there is considerable debate about its ethical implications.”
If JS is ever revived, she’ll be a 14-year-old alone in a world without friends or family, and it seems unlikely that any medical process that could bring a person back to life would be painless or even comprehensible to the human mind. JS wrote a letter to the court defending her choice, writing, “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.”