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World & Nation

Terminally ill British teen wanted to try cryonics: ‘They might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up’

Cryonics Institute
A 14-year-old girl from London who died in October was cryogenically frozen at the Cryonics Institute in Michigan, seen here, after winning a court case
(Cryonics Institute via EPA)

The terminally ill British teenager had appealed to the high court in London after her divorced parents clashed over her desire to be cryopreserved — some say frozen — in hopes of being revived someday.

The girl, suffering from cancer, explained “why I want this unusual thing done” in a letter to the court.

“I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die, but I know I am going to,” she wrote. “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,” wrote the girl, who is identified in court papers only by the initials J.S. “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.”

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The girl asked the court to designate her mother, who supported her desire to turn to cryonics, as responsible for her remains. The father initially opposed the choice, saying he was concerned about the world she might find herself in if the process succeeded, but later said he respected his daughter’s wishes.

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.
terminally ill 14-year-old girl

Judge Peter Jackson granted the girl’s request in October, several days before she died. The case came to light Friday because the judge had imposed a media blackout for one month after the teenager’s death.

Jackson ultimately ruled that the teenager’s mother should be solely responsible for deciding what happened to the girl’s body after death, and stressed the case was not about cryonics.

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“It is not about whether cryonic preservation has any scientific basis or whether it is right or wrong,” Jackson wrote. “The court is not approving or encouraging cryonics, still less ordering that J.S.’s body should be cryonically preserved.”

The girl’s lawyer said her client was “delighted” at the judge’s ruling and referred to him as “Mr. Hero Peter Jackson” after he visited her in the hospital.

The teenager lived in London, and when she died her body was immediately prepared for cryogenic preservation and flown to the U.S. Her family was not wealthy but her maternal grandparents had raised the $45,500 needed for the procedure.

According to the judge’s decision, medical staff also wanted to impress that it was not endorsing cryonics by agreeing to help the girl carry out her dying wish.

“The hospital is willing to do what it properly can to cooperate for the sake of J.S., because the prospect of her wishes being followed will reduce her agitation and distress about her impending death,” Jackson wrote. “The decision centers entirely on what is best for J.S.”

Boyle is a special correspondent.

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