A 14 year old girl who wanted her body preserved for resurrection, has won a historic legal case shortly before she died. The girl who was terminally ill with a rare cancer, supported by her mother had asked the court to allow for her body frozen through the process of cyonics.
During the landmark case she wrote an extraordinary letter to a judge while on her death bed.
She said: ‘I am only 14-years-old and I don’t want to die but I know I am going to die.
‘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.’
‘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’.
The ruling however was not based on the legality or otherwise of the process but on which parents’ decision should be upheld as the girl’s father was against the preservation.
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.
“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.”
The father was said to have however changed his mind saying that he respected the wishes of his daughter.
A High Court judge ruled that the girl’s mother should be allowed to decide what happened to the body. The girl died in October but details of her case were just recently released and reported by the BBC.
WHAT IS CRYOPRESERVATION?
The deep freezing of a body to – 196C (-321F). Anti-freeze compounds are injected into the corpse to stop cells being damaged. The hope is that medical science will advance enough to bring the patient back to life. Two main US organisations carry out ‘cryonics’ – Alcor, in Arizona, and Cryonics Institute, Michigan.
HOW IS IT MEANT TO WORK?
The process can only take place once the body is legally dead. Ideally, it begins within two minutes of the heart stopping – and no more than 15. The body must be packed in ice and injected with chemicals to reduce blood clotting. At the cryonics facility, it is cooled to just above OC and the blood is replaced with a solution to preserve organs. The body is injected with another solution to stop ice crystals forming in organs and tissues, then cooled to – 130C. The final step is to place the body into a container which is lowered into a tank of liquid nitrogen at – 196C.
WHAT’S THE CHANCE OF SUCCESS?
Many experts say there is none. Organs such as the heart and kidneys have never been successfully frozen and thawed, so it is even less likely a whole body – and the brain – could be without irreversible damage.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Charges at the Cryonics Institute, where the girl has been stored, start at around $35,000 (£28,000) to ‘members’ for whole-body cryopreservation. The girl was charged £37,000, which may include costs such as transportation. Rival group Alcor charges $200,000 (£161,000) for whole-body preservation.
HOW LONG BEFORE PEOPLE CAN BE BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE?
Cryonics organisations claim it could be decades or even centuries. However Medical experts say once cells are damaged during freezing and turned to ‘mush’ they cannot be converted back to living tissue, any more than you can turn a scrambled egg back into a raw egg.
The judge, Mr Justice Peter Jackson who admitted to have been moved by the girl said that his ruling was not about the rights or wrongs of cryonics but about a dispute between parents over the disposal of their daughter’s body.
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. Mr Justice Jackson said the case was an example of science posing new questions to lawyers.
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 according to the BBC.
WHERE CAN YOU BE FROZEN AFTER YOUR DEATH?
- Cryonics Institute – Clinton Township, Michigan
- Alcor Life extension Foundation – Scotsdale, Arizona
- Oregon Cryonics – Salem, Oregon
- TransTime – San Leandro , San Francisco
The US is no longer the sole preserve or cryogenics, with Russian firm KrioRus becoming one of the first to set up outside of the US.