England: Teenage cancer victim wins landmark court case over dying wish to be cryogenically frozen

of third parties. The body must be prepared within a very short time of death, ideally within minutes and at most within a few hours. Arrangements then have to be made for it to be transported by a registered funeral director to the premises in the United States where it is to be stored.

“Evidently, where the subject dies in hospital, the cooperation of the hospital is necessary if the body is to be prepared by the volunteers. This situation gives rise to serious legal and ethical issues for the hospital trust, which has to act within the law and has duties to its other patients and to its staff.”

He added: “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 is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law, perhaps most of all to family law.”

JS’s mother supported her wish for her body to be transported to the US for cryonic preservation, but her father, who was originally opposed to the idea, said he would only be prepared to agree to what she wanted on four conditions: that he and other members of his family could view her body after death; that the mother would not pursue any financial claims against him; that the mother and her family would not make any contact with him and his family; and that he would not be pursued for any contribution to the costs of the cryonic process.

However, the court ruled that it had the power to make the orders requested by JS, namely a specific issue order permitting the mother to continue to make arrangements during her lifetime for the preservation of her body after death, and an injunction preventing the father from applying for a grant of administration in respect of JS’s estate, making or attempting to make arrangements for the disposal of JS’s body, or interfering with arrangements made by the mother with respect to the disposal of JS’s body.

In a written judgment, Mr Justice Jackson said: “I cannot emphasise enough what this case is not about. It is not about whether cryonic preservation has any scientific basis or whether it is right or wrong. The court is not approving or encouraging cryonics, still less ordering that JS’s body should be cryonically preserved.

“All this case is about is providing a means by which the uncertainty about what can happen during JS’s lifetime and after her death can be resolved so far as possible. JS cannot expect automatic acceptance of her wishes, but she is entitled to know whether or not they can be acted upon by those who will be responsible for her estate after her death.

“It would be unacceptable in principle for the law to withhold its answer until after she had died. Also, as a matter of practicality, argument about the preservation issue cannot be delayed until after death as the process has to be started immediately if it is to happen at all.

“Having considered all the arguments, my conclusion is that the court can and should do what it can to provide a means of resolving the dispute between JS’s parents that hangs over the arrangements that are to be made after her death.

“Therefore, both as to preservation of the body and as to the question of who should be permitted to view it, I conclude that the mother is best placed to manage this unusual and difficult situation. I will therefore make orders placing responsibility in her hands and prevent the father from intervening.”

Mr Justice Jackson added that on 7 October, the day after the hearing, he received a message from JS through her solicitor saying that she would like to meet the judge who had decided her case.

“I visited her in hospital that evening in the presence of her mother and we had a good discussion. I was moved by the valiant way in which she was facing her predicament,” he said.

JS died ten days later.

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