Ter­mi­nally ill teen won his­toric rul­ing to pre­serve body

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

A 14-year-old girl who wanted her body to be pre­served, in case she could be cured in the fu­ture, won a his­toric le­gal fight shortly be­fore her death.

The girl, who was ter­mi­nally ill with a rare can­cer, was sup­ported by her mother in her wish to be cryo­geni­cally pre­served - but not by her fa­ther.

She wrote to the judge ex­plain­ing that she wanted “to live longer” and did not want “to be buried un­der­ground”.

The girl, who died in Oc­to­ber, has been taken to the US and pre­served there.

A High Court judge ruled that the girl’s mother should be al­lowed to de­cide what hap­pened to the body.

The de­tails of her case have just been re­leased.

The teenager, who lived in the London area and can­not be named, used the in­ter­net to in­ves­ti­gate cry­on­ics dur­ing the last months of her life.

The judge, Mr Jus­tice Peter Jack­son, vis­ited the girl in hospi­tal and said he was moved by “the valiant way in which she was fac­ing her predica­ment”.

His rul­ing, he said, was not about the rights or wrongs of cry­on­ics but about a dis­pute be­tween par­ents over the dis­posal of their daugh­ter’s body.

It was brought to court for the first time on 26 Septem­ber and the judge made his de­ci­sion on 6 Oc­to­ber.

Cry­on­ics is the process of pre­serv­ing a whole body in the hope that re­sus­ci­ta­tion and a cure are pos­si­ble in the dis­tant fu­ture.

It is a con­tro­ver­sial pro­ce­dure and no-one yet knows if it is pos­si­ble to bring peo­ple back to life.

There are fa­cil­i­ties in the US and Rus­sia where bod­ies can be pre­served in liq­uid ni­tro­gen at very low tem­per­a­tures (less than -130C) - but not in the UK.

The cost of pre­serv­ing the body for an in­fi­nite amount of time in this case was £37,000.

Chrissie de Ri­vaz, from Corn­wall, is one of those peo­ple plan­ning to make the jour­ney af­ter she dies.

She has saved up the £28,000 to be frozen af­ter her death, as has her hus­band John.

“I can’t see any rea­son to just send me up the flume and I hate the idea of be­ing buried in the ground, so why not take this chance to come back again?”

Si­mon Woods, an expert in med­i­cal ethics from New­cas­tle Univer­sity, thinks the whole idea is sci­ence fic­tion.

He said: “The di­ag­no­sis of death is that death is ir­re­versible, and for peo­ple who seek cry­op­reser­va­tion, they’ve died of a se­ri­ous dis­ease, in this case it’s can­cer.

“The per­son is in a pretty bad state of health to be­gin with, and there’s ab­so­lutely no sci­en­tific ev­i­dence that

the per­son could be brought back to life.” The girl’s so­lic­i­tor, Zoe Fleet­wood, said it had been a “great priv­i­lege” to be in­volved with the case of an “ex­tra­or­di­nary in­di­vid­ual”.

When the girl was told about the court’s de­ci­sion, she had been “de­lighted” and re­ferred to the judge as “Mr Hero Peter Jack­son”, her lawyer said.

“It was a dif­fi­cult process. Some might say the girl’s mother’s at­ten­tion was di­rected to­wards that pro­ce­dure rather than griev­ing at this time,” Ms Fleet­wood added.

“But her daugh­ter had passed away, the pro­ce­dure needed to be car­ried out.”

The case had not set a prece­dent for fu­ture cases around cry­op­reser­va­tion, she said. The girls’ par­ents were di­vorced and the girl had not had any con­tact with her fa­ther for six years be­fore she be­came ill.

While the girl’s mother sup­ported her wishes to have her body pre­served, her fa­ther was against it.

He said: “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 of Amer­ica.”

Although he then changed his mind, say­ing he re­spected his daugh­ter’s de­ci­sion, he sub­se­quently wanted to see his daugh­ter’s body af­ter her death - some­thing to which she would not agree.

The judge said the girl’s ap­pli­ca­tion was the only one of its kind to have come be­fore a court in England and Wales - and prob­a­bly any­where else.

Mr Jus­tice Jack­son said the case was an ex­am­ple of sci­ence pos­ing new ques­tions to lawyers.

The girl died peace­fully in Oc­to­ber know­ing that her re­mains would be pre­served, but the judge said there had been prob­lems on the day she died.

He said hospi­tal staff and bosses had ex­pressed con­cerns about the way the process of pre­par­ing her body for cryo­genic preser­va­tion had been han­dled.

This was car­ried out by a vol­un­tary group in the UK be­fore her body was flown to the US for stor­age. The teenager’s let­ter to the judge “I have been asked to ex­plain why I want this un­usual thing done.

“I am only 14 years old and I don’t want to die but I know I am go­ing to die.

“I think be­ing cry­op­re­served gives me a chance to be cured and wo­ken up - even in hun­dreds of years’ time.

“I don’t want to be buried un­der­ground.

“I want to live and live longer and I think that in the fu­ture they may find a cure for my can­cer and wake me up. “I want to have this chance. “This is my wish.”

A Pales­tinian man rides a horse on the beach as the sun sets over Gaza city on Thurs­day Photo: AP

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