Terminally ill teen won historic ruling to preserve body

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(BBC) A 14-year-old British 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.

An artist's impression of how cryogenically preserved bodies might be stored in the future (Science Photo Library)
An artist’s impression of how cryogenically preserved bodies might be stored in the future (Science Photo Library)

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 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.”


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.

Future hope

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.

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