Recently a legal custody battle arose between two divorced parents from London involving their fourteen-year-old daughter's dying wishes. The girl, who had cancer and only a short time to live, had begun making arrangements to be cryogenically frozen with the hopes that in years to come, she would be able to be woken up and cured. However, the procedure required the consent of both of the girl's parents. This meant consent from her father, who she had not had contact with in eight years, was also required. As her father opposed the procedure, her mother brought a suit on the girl's behalf in London's equivalent of a family court. The mother was ultimately successful in getting full rights to decide what would happen to her daughter's remains upon her death. The girl, who has since passed away, has been transported to the United States and is being stored in Detroit.
This is a unique case, because although it involved legal custody of a child and the focus was on the wishes and welfare of the child, most legal custody cases do not involve what will happen to the child after his or her death. If this case were handled in Pennsylvania or in another jurisdiction in the United States, a family court may have declined to hear it and may have deferred the matter to orphans' court after the child's death. However, there are some factors that may have led a Pennsylvania family court to hear the matter. First, the case was brought while the girl, who has not been named for privacy reasons, was still alive and able to testify as to her wishes. Courts in Pennsylvania, when deciding any custody matter, will consider the well-reasoned preferences of a child, giving consideration to the child's age and maturity.