Volume 4, Issue 1
May 2009

Arguments Supporting the Legal Rights of People in and Revived from Biostasis

John P. Dedon, Esq.

This article was adapted from a lecture given by John P. Dedon, Esq. during the 4th Annual Colloquium on the Law of Futuristic Persons, December 10, 2008, at the Florida Space Coast Office of Terasem Movement, Inc.

With a skillful legal proficiency, Mr. Dedon offers supporting arguments as to why cryonically preserved individuals and their property should be protected.


The topic is the Law of Futuristic Persons and their legal status. When discussing this topic, what we need to realize is that, we really don't know the legal status. What we are really talking about are positions and arguments supporting the legal rights of people in and revived from biostasis.

There have been challenges to people who have wanted to dispose of their assets in a certain way and their desires have not come to fruition. Family members or others raised concerns and actually contested what the deceased wanted to do.

imageWhen we talk about legal rights we are in the process of establishing them. As I thought about this topic, William Goldman’s, statement, “Nobody Knows Anything”, comes to mind.[1] If you’re not familiar with William Goldman, he is a legendary screen writer. Over the course of time producers and other Hollywood types would say, “Bill, you know as much about Hollywood as anybody, is this project going to be greenlighted, is it going to make a couple hundred million dollars?” Goldman was credited with saying, "Nobody knows anything."

That concept applies to a number of areas, and it applies to what we're talking about today.


What does that mean to us in the legal world? Laws are made through legislation; Congress or a state legislature will pass laws. They are also made through case law, through precedent, and presently we don't have a lot of precedent. We're really here to shape the law, and to guide the law. To develop the law is our opportunity. That is the blessing that we have. Obviously, that's also a curse, because the law can also go in a direction that we don't want. We need to make our own precedent. In making our own precedent, lets discuss four arguments that we can rely on to shape the law. If a case was in front of a judge, the judge would look to other areas of the law for guidance. Although there may be fifty other arguments that are relevant, here are four arguments that can help us.

The first argument is: Upon death people have the right to do certain things. Certainly if those rights apply upon death, cryonically-preserved people who are in a transition period should enjoy those same rights or even greater rights.


Just as the legal dead have rights, cryonic people should have the right to pass their assets to beneficiaries of their choice. A decent burial is a fundamental right. Wrongful death statutes protect the legal dead if death is caused by somebody's negligence. Certainly those who are in a transition period should have these same rights, if not greater rights. The law is to be developed, it's not a slam dunk that courts are going to respect the wishes of the decedent. In fact, there was an American Bar presentation from earlier this year where a lawyer in New York, Gideon Rothchild [2], summarized what courts have looked at in determining a decedent’s wishes. He pointed out that, often times the family’s wishes and public norms will supersede a decedent's wishes. His comments were in the context of frozen DNA [3] being used posthumously to conceive children, which is an analogous area of the law. Common law says: Although there is deference to a decedent’s wishes, those wishes do not always control. Courts often look to (1) society norms and public heath concerns; (2) surviving family’s wishes; and then (3) the decedent’s wishes. “To guarantee last wishes, legislative reform will be required.” See Gideon Rothschild, Issue of Issue or The Child I Never Had, 23 (ALI-ABA Audio Seminar, August 19, 2008).[4]

Second argument: Individuals in biostasis should be protected because the law can't be made through 'abstract moralisms'. What is an abstract moralism? The context to understand abstract moralisms dates back to Roe v Wade [5] and the abortion cases and a woman's right to choose. The Supreme Court said that, under the 14th Amendment [6], there is a privacy right. There is a right that should be determined by the individual. It should not be left up to the state legislature. The state legislature cannot propound abstract moralisms. In other words, certain things are so fundamental, so important, that it's not an elected official who's going to determine what the law provides.

In Planned Parenthood versus Casey [7], there is a quote that is so important Planned Parenthood was, again, an abortion case involving state legislation in Pennsylvania. The facts aren't as important as the holding. The Court said you had to look to these privacy rights. 

The Court said the following, "These matters involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy are central to the liberty protected by the 14th Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State."


That’s powerful language and it really lends itself to what we're suggesting when you look at cryonically-preserved people. This mystery of life and latitude provided to the individual to determine what that means to that individual is not limited to just when life begins but it is also applicable to when life ends.

By analogy, borrowing from these right to choose cases and the 14th Amendment, this is helpful to develop this area of the law.

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1. William Goldman – Screenwriter, novelist, playwright, non-fiction author. Born in Highland Park, Illinois, USA, began his career as a novelist in 1957. Started writing screenplays in 1965 with "Masquerade". A two-time Academy Award Winner, he is one of the most successful screenwriters and script doctors in Hollywood.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001279/bio  February 11, 2009 4:10PM EST

2. Gideon Rothchild – a nationally-recognized authority on the use of offshore trusts and estate planning strategies for wealth preservation and succession planning. Mr. Rothschild distinguishes himself from many of his peers in that his estate planning recommendations are integrated with asset protection objectives.
http://mosessinger.com/grothschild/  February 11, 2009 4:28PM EST

3. DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. Nearly every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.
http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/dna  February 11, 2009 4:55PM EST

4. Gideon Rothschild, Issue of Issue or The Child I Never Had, 23 (ALI-ABA Audio Seminar, August 19, 2008).

5. Roe v. Wade - ROE v. WADE, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), A pregnant single woman (Roe) brought a class action challenging the constitutionality of the Texas criminal abortion laws, which proscribe procuring or attempting an abortion except on medical advice for the purpose of saving the mother's life.
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/...  February 11, 2009 5:03PM EST

6. 14th Amendment - to the Constitution of the United States
http://www.law.cornell.edu/...  February 11, 2009 12:43PM EST  

7. Planned Parenthood - Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), an abortion case holding that the state must relate a restriction on a woman’s right to choose to the health of the woman or public health concerns. State legislatures cannot propound “abstract moralisms” to the public as these determinations should be left to the individual.
http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/...  February 11, 2009 5:14PM EST


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