A 14-year-old schoolgirl from London has won a landmark case to have her body cryonically frozen in a bid to live again should a cure for the cancer that killed her be found. She will be the first British child to have her body frozen.
The girl's divorced parents disagreed over her wish to be frozen, so the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked the High Court to step in and give her a chance to have a life even if it meant it could take place centuries later.
"I don't want to die but I know I am going to ... I want to 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," she wrote in a moving letter to the court.
"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," she continued.
The girl, known as JS in court papers, had asked the court to allow her mother, who she lived with in London, and who supported her wish to be cryogenically preserved, to be the only person to be allowed to decide on the disposal of her body.
JS was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2015 and by August 2016 was told that her illness was terminal and active treatment stopped. After researching cryonic preservation online, she decided that she wanted to be frozen after her death.
Due to her age, she was unable to make a legally recognised will and had to get the permission of both her parents to sign up for the process which involves the freezing of a dead body in the hope that resuscitation and a cure may one day take place.
Her father, whom she had not seen for eight years and himself has cancer, was against the move when she contacted him with her decision, reports The Mirror. "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. She may be left in a desperate situation — given that she is still only 14 years old — and will be in the United States of America," he argued.
The Telegraph noted that the father was also concerned about the moral and ethical implications of the process and whether he could be pursued for payments at some point in the future despite living on benefits.
He eventually changed his mind and told the court that he respected her decision. "This is the last and only thing she has asked from me."
Justice Peter Jackson, who visited the girl in hospital as she was too ill to attend court, granted her last request on 6 October, noting that "the prospect of her wishes being followed will reduce her agitation and distress about her impending death."
JS lost her battle with cancer on 17 October. In his ruling, Justice Jackson publication of the case for a month until after her death and that the identities of both JS, her parents and other specific details of the case be withheld.
He added that he was not making a decision on the rights and wrongs of cryogenic science but on the disagreement between the parents.
Justice Jackson also noted that although the hospital trust was willing to help, it was not endorsing cryonics. "On the contrary, all the professionals feel deep unease about it."
The Telegraph said that the £37,000 cost for the cryogenic process was paid for by JS's maternal grandparents as her parents were unable to raise the necessary funds. The cost covers freezing the body and taking it to a storage facility in the US, which is only one of two countries — Russia being the other — that has the facility to store frozen bodies.