Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body

BBC News : A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be preserved, in case she could be cured in the future, won a historic legal fight shortly before her death.

A photograph of the terminally ill teen, radiating a smile, highlighting their involvement in the historic ruling to preserve their body.
Image by Lisa Yount from Pixabay

The girl, who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, was supported by her mother in her wish to be cryogenically preserved – but not by her father.

She wrote to the judge explaining that she wanted “to live longer” and did not want “to be buried underground”.

The girl, who died in October, has been taken to the US and preserved there.

A High Court judge ruled that the girl’s mother should be allowed to decide what happened to the body.

The details of her case have just been released.

The teenager, who lived in the London area and cannot be named, used the internet to investigate cryonics during the last months of her life.


The teenager’s letter to the judge

I have been asked to clarify the reasons behind my desire for this extraordinary undertaking.

Although I’m merely 14 years old, I hold a profound fear of mortality, yet an acceptance of its inevitability.

Considering cryopreservation grants me the possibility of eventual healing and revival, even if it takes several centuries.

Entombment beneath the earth holds no appeal to me.

My fervent aspiration is to experience a prolonged existence, nourished by the hope that one day, medical advances might conquer my cancer and revive me.

I yearn for the opportunity to seize this possibility with open arms.

“This is my wish.”

 

Future hope

Cryonics is the process of preserving a whole body in the hope that resuscitation and a cure are possible in the distant future.

It is a controversial procedure and no-one yet knows if it is possible to bring people back to life.

The cost of preserving the body for an infinite amount of time in this case was £37,000.

Chrissie de Rivaz, from Cornwall, is one of those people planning to make the journey after she dies.

More on Chrissie’s story


Simon Woods, an expert in medical ethics from Newcastle University, thinks the whole idea is science fiction.

He said: “The diagnosis of death is that death is irreversible, and for people who seek cryopreservation, they’ve died of a serious disease, in this case it’s cancer.

‘Mr Hero Peter Jackson’

According to her lawyer, the girl expressed her delight upon learning about the court’s decision and referred to the judge as “Mr Hero Peter Jackson.”

“It was a difficult process.

The case had not set a precedent for future cases around cryopreservation, she said.

Family conflict

While the girl’s mother supported her wishes to have her body preserved, her father was against it.

He expressed concern about her future state even if successfully treated and revived in 200 years. He later wanted to see her body after death, but she disagreed. The judge noted the uniqueness of her application in court.

He initially respected his daughter’s decision, but later wanted to view her body after her death, which she disagreed with.

Need for regulation

Mr Justice Jackson said the case was an example of science posing new questions to lawyers.

However, the judge said there were problems on the day she died.

He said that hospital staff and bosses expressed concerns about how they had handled the process of preparing her body for cryogenic preservation.

A voluntary group in the UK carried out this before flying her body to the US for storage.

He suggested that ministers should consider “proper regulation” of cryonic preservation for the future.

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