A terminally ill teenager who wanted her body to be cryogenically frozen in the hope she could "live longer" won a landmark legal battle shortly before she died.
The 14-year-old's divorced parents had become embroiled in a dispute about whether her remains should be taken to a specialist facility in the US and cryogenically preserved.
The girl, who lived in the London area with her mother and had a rare form of cancer, had asked a High Court judge to rule that her mother – who supported her wish to be cryogenically preserved – should be the only person allowed to make decisions about the disposal of her body.
Mr Justice Peter Jackson made the ruling she wanted in October – following a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London – and lawyers say her remains have now been taken to the US and frozen.
The judge had said nothing about the case could be reported while the teenager was alive, after she said media coverage would distress her. He also ruled that no-one involved could be identified, in line with the girl's wishes. She had been too ill to attend the court hearing.
The judge said he had been moved by the "valiant way" in which she had faced her "predicament". He 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.
The judge also said that the case was an example of new questions science posed to lawyers. He said he had made decisions relating to a dispute between parents – not about the rights and wrongs of cryogenic preservation.
Mr Justice Jackson said the relationship between the girl's parents was "very bad". He said the girl had lived with her mother for most of her life and she had not had "face-to-face" contact with her father for eight years at the time of her death.
The judge said she had refused to have contact with her father, had not wanted him to have details of her illness and had not wanted him to see her body after she died.
He said a child could not make a will and he had been asked to decide where her best interests lay.
But her father had been reluctant to approve the plan and had been concerned about the consequences of his daughter being cryogenically preserved, and had been concerned about the costs involved.
"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," he had told Mr Justice Jackson.
"She may be left in a desperate situation – given that she is still only 14-years-old – and will be in the United States of America."
But during the litigation his position had changed and he later added: "I respect the decisions she is making. This is the last and only thing she has asked from me."
Mr Justice Jackson said the man's fluctuation was understandable. "No other parent has ever been put in his position," the judge said.
"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."
He added: "It is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law – perhaps most of all to family law."
The judge said there had been a "tragic combination" of childhood illness and family conflict.
He said he had concluded that allowing the girl's mother to make decisions about the disposal of her remains would be in her best welfare interests.
However, he noted that the scientific theory underlying cryonics was controversial.
He said cryopreservation, the preservation of cells and tissues by freezing, was a well-known process. But he said cryonics was cryopreservation taken to its extreme.
"The scientific theory underlying cryonics is speculative and controversial, and there is considerable debate about its ethical implications," said Mr Justice Jackson in his ruling that a girl's mother – who supported her wish to be cryogenically preserved – should be the only person allowed to make decisions about her body's disposal.
"On the other hand, cryopreservation, the preservation of cells and tissues by freezing, is now a well-known process in certain branches of medicine, for example the preservation of sperm and embryos as part of fertility treatment. Cryonics is cryopreservation taken to its extreme.
"The costs are high, or very high, depending on the level of research into the subject's case that is promised. "
Mr Justice Jackson said the girl had chosen the most basic arrangement which simply involved the "freezing of the body in perpetuity". He said even that cost about £37,000.
The judge said the girl's family was not well off, but he said her mother's parents had raised the money.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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