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Can You Be Cryogenically Frozen After Death Against Your Wishes?

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 01, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Cryogenics, or the practice of freezing dead bodies so that they can be revived in the future, currently occupies a special place between junk science and fraudulent fantasy land. There are a handful of places across the world that will take your money and put your dead body in a frozen tube, until the power fails or gets shut off. While the hope is that your dead body will be revivable in a few hundred, or thousand, years, there's quite a bit to be skeptical about.

Fortunately, unless you fork over a small boatload of cash and sign some pretty specific and legally binding paperwork, your dead body won't get made into an icicle. There was an exception for the baseball player Ted Williams, however. Williams' remains were cryogenically frozen by his two children, prompting an unusual legal battle with their half-sister. Given the case of Ted Williams, there definitely remain quite a few legal questions surrounding this issue.

Frozen People Are Medical Experiments

While the law does not specifically regulate cryogenics, the current legal framework in the US is adequate enough to allow research to continue. Essentially, this means that a person who wants to be frozen must agree to donate their body to the cryogenics facility for medical research. Surprisingly, there is pretty solid and established law as to a person's right to donate their body to a cryogenic facility.

However, this also opens up the extraordinarily remote possibility that a person that does not want to be frozen could end up being frozen if they donate their body to science. The possibility is so remote because there is a high need for body donations for other purposes such that cryogenics would likely fall pretty low on the list of receiving donated bodies that weren't specifically on board for being frozen.

The Rights of the Frozen

People who choose to be frozen will often rely on a life insurance payment to fund their continued stasis. This is only possible because there is no separate legal status of suspended animation. A person is either alive or dead. There's no in between. And when a person is frozen, they are considered dead (particularly as the law does not permit a person who is still alive to be frozen). However, legal scholars have wondered how this could change if cryogenics is ever successful in unfreezing a person.

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