A rather serious start to the week. Here’s the deal. A 14 year old girl in the UK won the legal right to have her body frozen when she died recently from a rare form of cancer. In order for her to do this, a judge had to rule against the wishes of her father, and follow the wishes of the girl herself, and her mother.
I have to say that Mr Justice Jackson seemed to me to act very reasonably. He visited the girl, decided she was competent and able to decide her own fate, and reckoned she should get what she wanted. One of the things she didn’t want was to be buried, and one of the things she did want was the (remote) chance to live longer.
‘I’m only 14 years old and I don’t want to die.’ That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? That’s why the decision seems fair and just to me when viewed simply as a decision. It’s just the actual outcome that makes me go, ‘Hmmm. Not sure.’
I’m not afraid of death, though I am very afraid of some of the extremely unpleasant ways it might happen. My view hasn’t changed since I was 14. At that age, if I’d been told my days were up, I might have railed against the world a huge amount. But would I have opted for cryonics? No, I don’t believe I would.
Just think of the practicalities. Firstly you have to assume that at some point in the future whatever killed you will become treatable. That’s a biggie, isn’t it? Then you have to assume that you can be safely brought out of the freezing process. This is a bit of a sweeping assumption, since it’s not been done in humans yet.
Then you have to hope that the treatment for your condition will work in your specific case. That’s by no means a foregone conclusion. Medical interventions, by their very nature, aren’t always successful.
What’s going to be the psychological effect of being brought back from the dead, since you can’t be frozen until you’re no longer alive? That’s going to be quite a thing to carry round with you. And you’ll be doing that carrying all on your ownsome, since all your friends and relatives, the ones you know now, will be long gone. You’ll be all alone in a world you don’t understand, and will definitely not recognise.
Then at some point you’re going to have to die again. Having done it once, that prospect may not be one you care to contemplate in too much detail.
I feel the judge was right. But there’s also that line about ‘… needst not strive officiously to keep alive.’ I’m in a quandary.