High court allows a request for a body to be frozen after death.
Posted on 18th November 2016
The High Court has just decided that the body of teenage girl who died of cancer should be cryogenically frozen – the first case to deal with the subject of cryogenical preservation.
The 14 year old girl left clear written guidance in the form of a letter to the court explaining why she wanted her body to be cryo-preserved. Her identity has been protected and she is known only as JS.
An adult can make a will appointing executors to deal with their funeral arrangements and they can give their executors guidance on their wishes. Usually they will specify whether they prefer burial or cremation. In this case, however, as the girl was only 14 she was too young in law to make a will.
Under the intestacy rules, her parents were jointly entitled to be appointed as personal representatives of her estate. However, her parents disagreed on the issue of cryogenical preservation.
The application to the family division of the High Court was made by the girl before she died. The girl was too ill to attend court, but the judge visited her in hospital.
The court had to make a decision in the girl’s best interests. She had said that being cryo-preserved gave her the chance to be woken up and cured sometime in the future.
Her father initially raised objections on the grounds that if she was woken in 200 years’ time, she would find herself as a 14 year old girl undergoing cancer treatment in America with no family or friends. Her mother supported her wish to have her body frozen.
The court ruled that JS’s mother should be entitled to make the arrangements in respect of the disposal of her body. Her body has now been transported to the US and frozen at a cost of £37,000.
Doubts were expressed by the experts in the case about cryonics but the court recorded that the girl had died peacefully knowing that her body would be frozen.
When drafting wills, we often record detailed guidance on funeral arrangements, including where ashes should be scattered and how, but now there is another option for clients to consider – cryogenical preservation.