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Teen Who Died of Cancer In U.K. Wins Right to Be Cryogenically Frozen

A 14-year-old British teen has been cryogenically frozen in the U.S. after dying from a rare form of cancer.

by Susmita Baral
Nov 19 2016, 7:00pm

Image: Xavier Aaronson/Motherboard

A 14-year-old British teenage girl, identified under the alias of "JS" for her privacy, has had her wish to be cryogenically frozen fulfilled. After dying from a rare form of cancer on Oct. 17, her body was transported to the U.S. and frozen by a commercial company for £37,000 (roughly $45,000, at 0.81 British pound to the dollar). This makes JS one of 10 Britons, and the only British child, to have undergone cryonic preservation.

JS was granted the right to be cryogenically frozen by Judge Peter Jackson in a case at London's High Court prior to her death. In the ruling of the case—details of which were kept under wraps as long as she was alive, by the judge's orders—Jackson gave the teen's mother, who supported her daughter's choice, permission to make decisions for the disposal of JS's body after death.

Cryogenic freezing is a controversial procedure that preserves the whole body with the goal to bring people back to life in the future. The first "preservation by freezing" took place in the 1960s and has only been repeated a few hundred times since—last year, toddler Matheryn Naovaratpong from Bangkok became the youngest person to be cryogenically frozen. Currently, only three storage facilities exist in the world: the Cryonics Institute in Michigan where JS is stored, Alcor in Arizona, and KrioRus in Russia.

The process, which is thus far unproven, goes something like this: the body is cooled immediately after death to prevent brain damage; the heart and lung are artificially restarted using a mechanical device; "protective medications" are administered; and blood is removed from the body and replaced with cryo-protectant fluid to prevent ice crystals from forming and damaging cells. The body is then stored in a vessel containing liquid nitrogen that keeps the body at low temperatures.

JS, who discovered cryonic preservation on the Internet, expressed her hope to have the opportunity to live longer in a letter to the court. She wrote:

"I have been asked to explain why I want this unusual thing done. I'm only 14 years old and I don't want to die, but I know I am going to. I think being cryo‐preserved 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 might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up. I want to have this chance. This is my wish."

In the aftermath of her death, Jackson has called for "proper regulation" of cryonic preservation—the process is legal in the U.K. but not regulated.