Health

Body of Cancer-Ridden Teen Is Cryogenically ‘Preserved’

Girl's last wish was to 'come back' when there is a cure for her rare illness — many moral, ethical, legal questions raised

In a landmark court decision, a 14-year-old British girl was granted her request to be cryogenically frozen — in the hope that in the future, she can be “woken up” and cured of her cancer.

The girl, known only as “JS,” wrote for the court, “I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done. I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to. I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years’ time.”

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She added before she died, “I want to live and live longer. And I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer. I want to have this chance. This is my wish.”

“JS” was diagnosed with a rare cancer last year. By August, she was told her cancer was terminal and she would no longer be receiving active treatment.

Because her divorced parents disagreed on what should happen with her body after her death, the decision was left to the High Court in London. Days before her death in October and after visiting her in the hospital, a judge granted her wish; the specifics of the case have only recently been released. Her body has since been brought to the Cryonics Institute in Clinton, Michigan, for preservation, and her body has already been stored in liquid nitrogen, The Telegraph reported.

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[lz_bulleted_list title=”Does Cryonics Work?” source=”http://www.science.howstuffworks.com”]Critics say cryonics bilks people out of their money with “the promise of an immortality they cannot deliver. Even scientists who perform cryonics say they haven’t successfully revived anyone — and don’t expect to be able to do so in the near future. One reason is if the warming process isn’t done at precisely the right speed, the cells could turn to ice and shatter.”[/lz_bulleted_list]

The teen’s father, who also has cancer, was initially concerned that if the treatment were successful and she were brought “back to life” one day in the future — she might be all alone in the world. He ultimately said he respected the decision his daughter made and wanted to help her achieve her last wish.

The case raises a number of keen moral and ethical questions. The girl’s family and the judge ultimately had “serious misgivings about the process, which did not go entirely according to plan,” The Telegraph reported.

The post-mortem process was said to be disorganized and caused concern to hospital staff. The judge suggested that “proper regulation” of cryonics preservation — which is currently legal but unregulated — should be considered. A spokesman for the firm that helped transport “JS” to the U.S. agreed.

Related: Father and Son, Facing Cancer Crisis, Bond Through Sports

Cryonics is the practice or technique of deep-freezing the bodies of those who have died of an incurable disease, in the hope of a future cure.

The president of the Cryonics Institute, Dennis Kowalski, told The Sun, “The institute had scores of Brits signed up to join those frozen at the center, some of whom are celebrities.” He added that nearly 100 people from the U.K. have signed up for cryogenic suspension — the largest number outside the U.S.

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