Proctor : October 2017
26 PROCTOR | October 2017 A quick update on cryonics Until someone actually creates the youth potion from the movie Death Becomes Her,1 people will continue to expire. Most of us have heard the rumour that Walt Disney has been cryopreserved and might one day be revived; however, this has been shown to be false. But, while that claim is fake, the ability to freeze your body with a view to being revived at a later date is not. Cryopreservation – the concept of freezing a body – is an option available to those who wish to resume existence after they die, should science come up with a way to revive them. Recently, I was a guest presenter at both the Queensland and New South Wales Cemeteries and Crematorium Associations discussing the future of body disposal, including cryopreservation, as we know it. So, what is cryopreservation? Well, simply put, a corpse is frozen to -196°C with the intention of reviving the body at a time when technology has advanced sufficiently to restore the body and cure the ailment or disease that caused the death. Although it is not currently possible to revive the dead, except in the movies, many people are becoming interested in the concept of cryopreservation as a possible means to achieve eternal life. Australians who have wanted their whole body frozen have only had the option of transporting their corpses overseas as currently there are only four major companies that provide cryonics services: 1. Alcor in Arizona, USA 2. Cryonics Institute (CI) in Michigan, USA 3. American Cryonics Society (ACS) in California, USA 4. KrioRus, Russia. These companies make no promises that there is life after death, and consider that their ‘patients’ are donating their bodies for scientific research. 2 In Australia, the New South Wales town of Holbrook is set to build the first cryonics facility in Australia – apparently it will cost around $90,000 to have your body frozen.3 While this raises a lot of questions, including whether $90,000 is enough to sustain a body over an indefinite period until science finds a way to revive it, there other questions that relate to us as a profession. From a legal perspective, some questions, well put by senior lecturer Heather Conway of the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast are:4 • What is the status of the corpse during its time in the deep freeze; does it have any legal rights, or is it a method that is part of the work and skill exception principle derived from the seminal case of Doodeward v Spence5 in which case the corpse becomes property subject to property rights? • How long should a frozen corpse be stored, and who has the responsibility to thaw or destroy the corpse without reanimating it? • If a claim should be made on an estate, how does that affect funds that may be set aside for preservation of the frozen corpse? • Could a reanimated corpse reclaim assets that they owned in life, but had passed to family members on death? Could inheritance laws be undone? • How would laws operate if the frozen corpse was married prior to cryopreservation, and the deceased’s spouse remarries? Would that marriage still be valid when the former partner returns from the dead? Interestingly, there has already been case law around this technology coming out of the United Kingdom. In the case of Re JS (Disposal of Body)  EWHC 2859 (Fam), a 14-year-old girl, referred to as JS, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She had Cold comfort ELECTRONIC COSTING Portal Fast Safe & Secure Streamline your process by uploading your file & documents via our portal above, saving you time & hassle. Contact Michael Graham on 0418 194 734 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss in-house legal costing services for your firm.