Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Frozen Stiff

By Michael Cook

Cryonics is a growing industry even if its feasibility is questionable and its ethics murky.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

A 14-year-old British girl dying of cancer recently won a court battle to be cryogenically frozen after her death. The world-wide publicity has revived public interest in this peculiar end-of-life option.

The teenager’s divorced parents could not agree about whether to carry out her wishes, so she sought permission from the UK High Court. In a touching letter to the judge, the girl, known only as JS, 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.

Things went according to plan. After her death on 17 October, JS’s body was frozen by a volunteer group in the UK and shipped to Alcor, a facility in the United States, one of three in the world that store frozen bodies.

Cryopreservation is not cheap. Basic packages cost, in the words of Justice Jackson, “about ten times as much as an average funeral”. Alcor charges about US$200,000 for preserving a body. The cheaper option of preserving only the brain costs US$80,000. In JS’s case, her maternal...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.