Judge grants U.K. girl’s dy­ing wish to be frozen

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND WORLD - By Gre­gory Katz

LON­DON— The teenage girl’s in­struc­tions were di­rect: She didn’t want to be buried, but to be frozen — with the hope she can con­tinue her life in the fu­ture when can­cer is cured.

“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,” the 14-year-old wrote to a Bri­tish judge be­fore her re­cent death.

She said “be­ing cry­op­re­served gives me a chance to be cured and wo­ken up — even in hun­dreds of years’ time.”

Her plain­tive words con­vinced High Court Judge Peter Jack­son to grant her fi­nal wishes in what he called the first case of its kind in Eng­land — and pos­si­bly the world.

The judge said the girl had cho­sen the most ba­sic preser­va­tion op­tion at a cost of about $46,000.

The girl’s di­vorced par­ents dis­agreed about the pro­ce­dure, with the mother fa­vor­ing it and the fa­ther ini­tially say­ing no, though he soft­ened his stance as his daugh­ter’s death neared.

The girl, who along with her par­ents can’t be named for le­gal rea­sons, asked the court to des­ig­nate that only her mother could dis­pose of her re­mains so that she could be cryo­geni­cally pre­served, an un­proven tech­nique that some peo­ple be­lieve may al­low frozen bod­ies to be brought back to life in the fu­ture.

The girl’s lawyer, Zoe Fleet­wood, said her client learned of the fa­vor­able rul­ing Oct. 6 — 11 days be­fore she died.

“It brought her great com­fort,” Fleet­wood said. “She saw this as a chance to be brought back at some stage in the fu­ture, but she knew it was spec­u­la­tive.”

The lawyer said the girl Gar­ret Smyth was the first Bri­tish res­i­dent to sign up for the cry­op­reser­va­tion process, a still-spec­u­la­tive prac­tice. was so pleased she wanted to meet the judge who had made the de­ci­sion.

“She met him the next day, the 7th of Oc­to­ber, and she re­ferred to him as Mr. Hero Peter Jack­son.”

The cry­op­reser­va­tion con­cept is re­garded with skep­ti­cism by many in the med­i­cal com­mu­nity be­cause it has not yet been proven to be ef­fec­tive.

Barry Fuller, a spe­cial­ist in low-tem­per­a­ture medicine at Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, said the tech­nol­ogy of pre­serv­ing cells at ul­tralow tem­per­a­tures is promis­ing, but can­not yet be ap­plied to large struc­tures like a hu­man kid­ney.

Gar­ret Smyth, a Bri­ton who signed up for the cry­op­reser­va­tion pro­ce­dure 30 years ago, said he thinks re­searchers will even­tu­ally find a way to keep cells from dy­ing — but prob­a­bly not dur­ing his life­time.

The judge called the girl’s case that be­gan in the Fam­ily Divi­sion of the court un­prece­dented.

“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,” Jack­son said, call­ing the case “an ex­am­ple of the new ques­tions that sci­ence poses to the law.”

The judge made the rul­ing in Oc­to­ber, and im­posed re­stric­tions on any me­dia cov­er­age while the girl was still alive out of re­spect for her stated de­sire for pri­vacy.

Jack­son’s de­ci­sion cleared the way for her re­mains to be taken to a spe­cial­ist fa­cil­ity in the U.S. for the start of the preser­va­tion process. Lawyers say that has been done, but de­tails have been kept pri­vate.

The girl and her fa­ther were es­tranged and the fa­ther at first op­posed the treat­ment.

He said that even if it was suc­cess­ful and his daugh­ter was brought back to life in 200 years, she would prob­a­bly not find any rel­a­tives, might not re­mem­ber things and would find her­self in a dif­fer­ent coun­try, the United States.

“She may be left in a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion,” he said.

His view changed, how­ever, and he later told the judge he re­spected the girl’s de­ci­sion: “This is the last and only thing she has asked from me,” he said. Jack­son

FRANK AUG­STEIN/AP

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