A court ruled for a 14-year-old girl in the UK, who was terminally ill from cancer, to be cryogenically frozen, in a case that has been described as unheard of.

The girl sought legal intervention to have her body preserved in the hopes that scientists would someday be able to bring her back to life and cure her illness, as her wishes were only supported by her mother - but not her father.

The judge granted her the wish by giving her mother the sole right to decide what happens to her body and her father eventually changed his mind and agreed to support his daughter's last wish as it "is the last and only thing she has asked" from him.

The girl, only known as JS, is not named to protect her privacy and media coverage was restricted after the court ruling in October as she was still alive.

A desperate hope after being diagnosed with a terminal cancer

JS suffered from a rare form of cancer and told that her illness was terminal by August this year. She then researched about cryonic preservation online and decided she wanted to be frozen after her death.

As she was too young to have a legally recognised will, she had to have the permission of both of her parents for the process to be carried out.

JS contacted her father - who is also cancer-stricken and who she has not seen since 2008 - as her parents are divorced. However he opposed to the idea and JS sought legal proceedings through a solicitor to ensure her wishes were followed through.

She wrote: "I think being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up, even in hundreds of years' time... 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."

In October, a judge ordered that JS's mother has the sole right to decide what happens to JS's body, while stressing that he was not making any ruling about the proposed cryonic preservation.

He also granted an injunction that prevented JS's father from seeing her or making any arrangements for the disposal of his daughter's body.

Following the ruling, the judge visited her in the hospital and said he was impressed by the "valiant way" she faced her death and that he never doubted her mental capacity to file a lawsuit.

Controversial and costly

The cryonic process is costly, starting from £37,000, and JS's parents could not afford to pay for it. However her maternal grandparents raised the money needed by selling a property.

The technology "has not yet been proven to be effective" as technical challenges of preserving and reconstructing a human brain, are "horribly daunting" and it is not at all clear if it is even possible.

Dennis Kowalski, president and CEO of Cryonics Institute in Michigan, said he did not believe memories would necessarily survive after the brain had been frozen for decades and some patients could awake as "clones" of themselves, with no sense of their former lives.

He also said that he only had a "50-50" belief that people enclosed in the freezing chambers would ever be revived.

As such, despite JS's father's agreement to support her last dying wish, he initially opposed saying, "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 and she may be left in a desperate situation given that she is only 14 years old and will be in the United States."

He has also attacked cryogenic firms, stating that "they are selling false hope to those who are frightened of dying- taking advantage of vulnerable people."

"When I asked if there was even a one in a million chance of my daughter being brought back to life, they could not say there was. I think it would be doubly impossible to both bring her back from the dead and cure her cancer, and companies should not hold out some false hope," he added.

Proper regulation of cryonic preservation should be done in the future

Judge Jackson expressed sympathy with JS's father saying, "No other parent has ever been put in his position."

"It is no surprise that this application is the only one of its kind to have come before the courts in this country, and probably anywhere else."

"It may be thought that the events in this case suggest the need for proper regulation of cryonic preservation in this country if it is to happen in the future," he added.
JS passed away peacefully last month, with the knowledge that she would be cryogenically preserved in the United States. MIMS

Read more:
The patient’s right to die: Ethical concerns after the first minor in Belgium is euthanised

Sources:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/cryogenically-frozen-teenager-terminally-ill-cancer-father-attacks-selling-false-hope-a7428071.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/18/cancer-girl-14-is-cryogenically-frozen-after-telling-judge-she-w/
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/18/502551138/dying-teenager-in-u-k-wins-right-to-be-cryogenically-frozen
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/19/cryogenics-boss-its-a-dice-roll/
https://www.statnews.com/2016/11/18/girl-dying-cancer-cryogenically-frozen/