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Judge rules that fourteen-year old may be cryonically preserved after death

JS (Disposal of Body) Re [2016] EWCH

The High Court ruled on the 10th November 2016 that a fourteen year-old cancer patient may be cryonically preserved after her death, in accordance with her wishes.

The facts were that JS, a fourteen year-old patient suffered from an untreatable cancer.  She had researched cryonics and expressed her wish in writing that she wanted to be cryo-preserved in the event that her cancer would in the future be curable and future generations could revive her.  Cryo-preservation involves the freezing of the human body after death in order to preserve it.  There is no evidence to date which suggests that a human body may be revived following this process.  JS had the intelligence and capacity to make the decision and the Human Tissue Act was not engaged.  The child’s grandparents had raised the funds required and her body would be transported to the USA following her death.

JS’s father was initially opposed to her wishes.  He wanted his daughter’s body to be able to be viewed after her death and this was something that she objected to.  Under the law, there is no right to prescribe the treatment of one’s body after death, irrespective of testamentary capacity or religion.

Jackson J issued injunctions limiting the manner in which the father could act not only while JS was alive, but also following her death.  He also made a prospective order which invested the mother with the sole right to apply for letters of administration after JS died.  He was careful to keep his decision within the remit of this individual case and selected the person he considered was best placed to make decisions after JS’s death.  The judge suggested that if cryonic preservation were to become more popular in the UK, the events in this case called for proper regulation by the Human Tissue Authority.

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

Medical Law