Nov 26

Dying British teenager wins right to be cryogenically frozen

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Dying British teenager wins right to be cryogenically frozen

In an unprecedented judgment released on Friday, 18th November 2016, Justice Peter Jackson granted a fourteen-year-old girl’s dying wish for her body to be cryogenically frozen upon her death.

Known in the proceedings as JS, JS was tragically diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2015 and her treatment was stopped in August this year. She researched online the possibilities of cryogenics and 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.”

Justice Jackson recognised that there was no regulation in this murky area of law. Justice Jackson commented that

“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. It is an example of the new questions that science poses to the law, perhaps most of all to family law. Faced with such a tragic combination of childhood illness and family conflict, the court must remember that hard cases make bad law, and that natural sympathy does not alter the need for the application to be decided in accordance with established principle, or with principle correctly established”.

Furthermore, Justice Jackson also stated

“lastly, I cannot emphasise enough what this case is not about. It is not about whether cryonic preservation has any scientific basis or whether it is right or wrong. The court is not approving or encouraging cryonics, still less ordering that JS’s body should be cryonically preserved”.

Justice Jackson is known for being for being a champion of children’s rights and children centred approach. He made headlines earlier this year for writing the first children friendly judgment.

Ireland’s Position on Cryogenics

Currently, there is no regulation on cryogenics in Ireland. As is clear from Justice Jackson’s judgment, regulation is undoubtedly needed. Historically, Ireland has been slow to legislate on modern medical advancements. This is clearly reflected in the area of surrogacy.

Whilst the Children and Family Relationship Act 2015 allows for mothers apply for recognised parenthood for their children born by way of donor assisted human reproduction, it goes little further than that. Surrogacy has been in practice for many years in Ireland and yet remains unregulated to this date.

The Irish judiciary also traditionally show deference in these complicated areas of laws and prefer for the legislature to decide on such matters. This was best shown in the recent case of MR and Others v. An tArd- Chláraitheoir [2014]. Here the Supreme Court overturned the High Court’s decision allowing the genetic mother to be registered as the mother to her twins that were born by way of surrogacy. The Supreme Court ruled that only the gestational mother could be registered as the mother.

The Children and Family Relations Act 2015 now allows for a mother to be registered as the legal mother in cases of donor assisted human reproduction in instances where the gestational mother consents to not being the legal parent prior to the procedure.

Considering the judgment of MR and the Irish Judiciary’s deference tendency, it begs the question that if JS was before the Irish Courts, would the Judiciary rule in her favour and grant her dying wish?

- Ciara Redmond
November, 2016


RELEVANT NEWS:

Irish Times: 

Justice Jackson’s child friendly judgment:

Information on the Children and Family Relationship Act: 

MR and Others v. An tArd- Chláraitheoir Judgment:

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