Monday 19 February 2018

Dad of cryogenically frozen girl: 'I never got to see her body'

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Gordon Rayner in London

The father of the 14-year-old girl cryogenically frozen after she died of cancer has spoken of his profound sadness that he was prevented by a judge from saying goodbye to her.

Mr S, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is also suffering from cancer and spent months in the same hospital as his daughter, JS, without ever being told she was there.

Speaking for the first time since his daughter's death, he said he blamed his former wife for preventing him from even seeing his daughter's body before work began to embalm and freeze it.

Other family members suggested JS had been "brainwashed" into thinking she could cheat death by signing up with the US-based Cryonics Institute, which is now storing her body in liquid nitrogen after she became convinced she could be cured and brought back to life in the future.

JS died in a London hospital on October 17 and was immediately prepared for freezing by volunteers from Cryonics UK, the only British organisation working in the unregulated field of cryopreservation. Her estranged father had been opposed to the process, but JS won the right to be frozen after a judge in the Family Division of the High Court awarded sole responsibility for her post-mortem arrangements to her mother, who supported her wishes. The judge also refused Mr S permission to view his daughter's body because it was against JS's wishes.

Mr S said: "Last time I saw her was in 2007. The reason for this is purely her mother's doing - she said no way, full stop. She has caused this sadness between me and my daughter and she died in the end without me being able to see her. It's so sad she didn't let me have any sight of her."

Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who granted JS's wish in a court hearing 11 days before she died, said she had been the centre of "a tragic combination of childhood illness and family conflict".

Her father revealed just how bitter and destructive the family rift had been.

He and JS's mother separated in 2002, when their daughter was just a few months old. He estimated that he had been to court 10 times to ask for the right to see her and despite managing some contact with his daughter in 2005-06, his last face-to-face contact with her was when she was six.

He said: "My daughter didn't even know all the court case procedures [through which] I have been so desperately trying to see her. I am so sad about it. Unfortunately it has ended this way."

A paternal uncle of JS said: "I loved JS and I wanted to help her when she was ill. But her mother wouldn't let us get a second opinion. Only once, I talked to JS on the phone. She said 'I'm dying but I'm going to come back again in 200 years'. And then she asked me for £50,000. I said, 'Look, I don't know how they brainwashed you but this is impossible. If you find a professor in hospital who supports this theory then I will go out and find the money for you'.

"But these companies are hope-traders. They are just trying to get money off people."

The £37,000 cost of JS's cryopreservation was raised by her maternal grandparents, but a cousin of her mother said there had also been misgivings on that side of the family.

A solicitor representing JS's mother said she did not want to comment.

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