Cryogenic Preservation - A Chance To Live Again?

Cryogenic Preservation

There is a story on the internet of a dying UK girl who has been able to convince a judge to let her body be frozen so she could be revived in future when her cancer is cured.

First, let us get to know what this procedure is and how it works.

  • ·        Cryonics is the low-temperature preservation (usually at -196°C) of people who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine, with the hope that resuscitation and restoration to full health may be possible in the far future.

  •  ·        Cryopreservation of humans is not reversible with present technology; cryonicists hope that medical advances will someday allow cryopreserved people to be revived

Cryogenic preservation: How does it work?

  • ·        The process needs to begin as soon as possible after the patient dies, to stop brain cells dying through lack of oxygen

  • ·        Bodies are first cooled in ice baths to slowly reduce the body temperature

  • ·        Blood is removed from the body and replaced with cryo-protectant fluid, stopping ice crystals forming inside, which in turn damages cells

  • ·        The bodies are transferred for storage - only companies in the US and Russia do this at present

  • ·        The companies put the person into an arctic sleeping bag and lower them into a giant tank, where their temperature continues to be lowered

  • ·        Whole bodies or just heads can be preserved, as well as pets

  • ·        Scientists have yet to prove they will be able to bring them back to life

Back to the story ...

The teenage girl's instructions were direct: She didn't want to be buried, but to be frozen — with the hope she can continue her life in the future when cancer is cured.

"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," the 14-year-old wrote to a judge before her recent death.

She said "being cryo-preserved gives me a chance to be cured and woken up — even in hundreds of years' time."

Her plaintive words convinced High Court Judge Peter Jackson to grant her final wishes in what he called the first case of its kind in England — and possibly the world.

The judge said the girl had chosen the most basic preservation option at a cost of about 37,000 pounds ($46,000).

The girl's divorced parents disagreed about the procedure, with the mother favoring it and the father initially saying no, though he softened his stance as his daughter's death neared.

The girl, who along with her parents can't be named for legal reasons, asked the court to designate that only her mother could dispose of her remains so that she could be cryogenically preserved, an unproven technique that some people believe may allow frozen bodies to be brought back to life in the future.

The concept is regarded with widespread skepticism by many in the medical community.

"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," the judge said.

He called the case "an example of the new questions that science poses to the law."

The judge made the ruling in October, and imposed restrictions on any media coverage while the girl was still alive out of respect for her stated desire for privacy.

His ruling cleared the way for the girl's remains to be taken to a specialist facility in the U.S. for the start of the preservation process.

The girl was too ill to attend court proceedings, but Jackson visited her in a hospital. He said he was impressed by the "valiant way" she dealt with her impending death from a rare form of cancer. He said she spent her final months researching cryonics on the internet.

Jackson said his decision was based on resolving the dispute between the parents and did not represent a finding on cryogenic preservation.

He seemed focused on the girl's expressed desire, even though she was too young to write a legally binding will.

"I don't want to be buried underground," she wrote at the end of her note. "I want to have this chance. This is my wish."

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