SHE wanted to be frozen after her death, he just wanted to disappear because he was bored with his life.
The wishes of two teenagers are much reported on today. The more prominent case involves a dying 14-year-old girl who wanted her body preserved in the hope of a cure in the future. It has been revealed that the girl won an historic legal fight shortly before her death from a rare form of cancer in October.
She was supported in her wish to be cryogenically preserved by her mother, but not by her father, with whom she had little contact.
A High Court judge visited the girl in hospital and later ruled that her mother should be allowed to decide. Following her death, the girl’s wishes were granted and her body was taken to the US to be preserved.
The teenager, who cannot be named, lived in the London area and used the internet to investigate having her body frozen after her death, in the hope of a future cure. It is reported that her grandparents paid the estimated £37,000 cost of the process.
The judge asked the girl to explain in a letter why she wanted “this unusual thing done”. It is certainly unusual, and you can’t help but worry that the whole process is some sort of pseudo-science scam mostly designed to extract money from the wealthy and gullible.
However, we should let the girl speak for herself. She was not someone old perhaps greedily wanting more of life. No, she was young and had not yet had much in the way of years, and this adds a tragic dimension to her wishes.
Here is some of what she wrote: “I am only 14 years old and I don’t want to die but I know I am going to die.
“I think being cryopreserved 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 may find a cure for my cancer and wake me up.
“I want to have this chance. This is my wish.”
As you can see, her thoughts are clearly and simply expressed, and it is hard not to be moved by her faith that science may find a way to bring her back from the dead, as it were. Unsurprisingly, the headlines in today’s newspapers cannot escape a lurid coating: “Dead girl, 14, frozen so she can live again”; “Girl wins right to return from the dead”; “The frozen girl”, and so on.
The human dimensions of this case are complex, worrying and heart-wrenching. What must her disunited parents now feel about their daughter? If this unlikely miracle could be brought off, would she awake in a 100 years’ times, 200 years’ time, to a changed world in which she knew no one and understood little?
It’s like a science-fiction version of the Moral Maze, that tedious BBC Radio 4 programme in which assorted talking heads become righteously cross with each other.
In a sense, this girl will live on in her story and in her words. The granting of her dying wishes confers on her a sort of immortality. It is hard not to be moved by someone so young having to face up to what awaits us all – even if mostly we pretend otherwise.
Life is a denial of death, and so long as someone keeps on living, so long as life continues after us, you could say that life wins over death in the end.
Arthur Heeler-Frood finds himself in the headlines for different reasons. The sixth-former from Devon disappeared after posting a letter to his parents saying that he was “bored with his life”. Boredom is not unusual among teenagers. Being bored can teach you that you should be doing something, so in that sense can be creative; adults tend to regard being bored as a waste of time, but teenagers – or the fortunate ones – have a lot of it to waste, and there is a sort of muggy deliciousness to teenage boredom, at least in memory.
Anyway, Arthur wanted an adventure, and for him that entailed sleeping rough for ten weeks in London, Birmingham and Manchester. In that letter to his parents, he said he would see them in a year. His holiday away from his life didn’t last that long, but you can’t help feeling that Arthur has something about him.
Most teenagers would just talk about bunking off or whatever the favoured term of the moment might be. Arthur didn’t just talk, he did it. And that shows a certain, perhaps perverse, initiative.
The few teenage atoms still skittering around inside my ageing self rather admire Arthur; the father in me worries what his poor parents must have been going through.
But I can’t help feeling that we will hear from Arthur again when he is older; whether the same can be said for the ‘frozen girl’ is another matter.