Published:

26 comments

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-10-21-13

We boo when judges make a Brexit ruling, and say that they should keep out of politics.  We cheer when a referendum puts the same issue to the people, and agree that they should take place more often.  We mean neither.

The case of the 14 year-old girl who has been cryogenitically frozen after a court upheld her wish to be illustrates both points.

It raises chilling, ho ho, ethical questions.  What happens if her parents disagree on what should happen (as in this case)?  Should a minor’s wish to be treated in this way hold the final sway?  Specifically, should it over-ride the views of medical staff, if these are to the contrary?  Is there enough certainty that a cryogenetic procedure can be properly carried out?  (This one did not, according to the Daily Telegraph‘s report, “go entirely according to plan. Her mother spent the last hours of her daughter’s life fretting about details of the freezing process, which was ‘disorganised’ and caused ‘real concern’ to hospital staff”.)

Think on. The girl told a family member: “I’m dying, but I’m going to come back again in 200 years.”   But will she really “come back again” at all?  After all, cryonics is essentially, when push comes to shove, freezing a body?  The girl’s assumption was that death is a process rather than an event – that one “comes back” as the person one was?  But how likely is the unfreezing of a body, and the application of unknown technology, to ensure that this happens?

What is a person, after all – and what if death really is an event?  If the person resuscitated comes back brain-dead, or mad?  Who is accountable in such an circumstances?   How is responsibility exercised if the freezing process is imperfect, but this isn’t discovered for a century – by which time the company that performed the operation has gone out of business?  What if the people unknown who unfreeze the body – those who are there in those 200 years – are not benign?  What if they are not people at all but, say, robots? Indeed, hat if the distinction between human beings and robots has become blurred, as some argue it will?

That’s more than enough questions.  But the point holds.  There is no public outcry to put such a complex issue to a referendum.  That’s why we outsource decisions to elected representatives: to save us the bother of having to puzzle them out for ourselves.

Except, of course, that MPs and peers are in no rush to debate and legislate how cryonics should be regulated, if at all.  They are happy enough to let the judges take the strain.  As are most of the rest of us, with a few notable exceptions.  These include, as it happens, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who heard the case.

 

26 comments for: Cryonics – and why we don’t really mean what we say about judges and referendums

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.