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HomeKathy GyngellKathy Gyngell: Sleeping beauty case shows our inability to face death

Kathy Gyngell: Sleeping beauty case shows our inability to face death


Set in the year AD 2540 Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World, anticipates developments in reproductive technology, psychological manipulation and Pavlovian  conditioning. Its compliant inhabitants are made so by their daily dose of ‘soma’, making Huxley’s dystopia less a “beauteous mankind” than one stripped of its humanity, its individuality and moral autonomy.

In some ways we are already living it.  Today more people than Huxley could have imagined are managed on routine prescriptions of anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. Prisoners and drug addicts are maintained on methadone; wayward or difficult children on Ritalin.

But one thing his parody did not predict was the emergence of a nightmare cryogenics industry offering mankind the false promise of immortality.

That is, perhaps, because he did not predict where the cult of individualism, to which he himself contributed, would lead. When, in 1954, he wrote Doors of Perception, a drug-inspired attempt to explore the depths of human consciousness, arguably he triggered the self-oriented ideology that’s come to replace society’s previous self-denying ordinance.

Yet nothing could be more dystopian than the story that stole the news headlines this weekend of a judge acceding to a 14-year-old girl’s dying wish that her body be cryogenically preserved. It spoke volumes as to the moral state of Britain today.

Mr Justice Jackson the High Court Judge who made the ruling did not appear to be afflicted by doubt. He was happy to let the world know that the dying girl had called him her hero.

He in turn had described her as ‘valiant’. He said she died peacefully knowing that her remains would be frozen. All in the garden was lovely according to this dramatised tabloid account.

Behind the feel-good narrative was a less salutary tale – of a dying girl with parents so at war they could not kept vigil together at her bedside to reassure her, comfort her and each other, during her last weeks.

An interview with the family’s lawyer suggested that the mother’s decision to pursue her daughter’s wishes (could they have been a desperate plea for attention one wonders?) left her so preoccupied with the court case and organising the immediate post death cryogenic procedures that it denied her precious time with her child in her dying days.

Then we learned that the father, because of a bitter split from her mother, had not even seen his daughter to tell her why he thought her request was wrong and profoundly misguided.  In fact, it turned out, he had not been allowed to see her for nine years, let alone to have access to love and comfort her in her dying days.

Are we then surprised that this child of a deeply dysfunctional family took solace and refuge in the Internet and its promises?

What a modern (a)morality tale and what a terrible triumph of sentiment over reason to find a High Court family judge pandering to this frankly barmy and dangerous fantasy.

For the Cryogenics Institute’s deep freeze pods and the people deluded enough to have signed up for this process, are all too real.

Conspicuous for its absence in the commentary around the case was any moral account of why her request should have been definitively denied. Do we live in such a moral void that no one knows any longer?

Leaving aside the ethics of a grossly exploitative industry – the outcomes of which not guaranteed – most of the contrary arguments have been presented in baldly utilitarian terms.

What about the limits of liberty? Or that denying that there are just two states – of life and of death – is, in essence, a fundamental attack on human dignity.

And what of the parents’ priorities and their flawed moral judgment? Your child is dying, the judge might have rebuked them, having demanded they come before him. Is there no other consolation in death you can offer your child than indulging her in a frightening fantasy?

The bedside of a dying child is indeed a hard place to be. You must want to provide whatever succour and peace of mind you can. Who wouldn’t feel compelled to do offer anything to give comfort?

The judge had no guidance to offer. Secular ‘values’ offer little guidance.

The father’s moral and ethical concerns were completely ignored. They did not even begin to sway this ‘Facebook age’ judge, who took the easy, kudos earning option of acting ‘fairy godmother’.

It must have been so much easier fro him to bend to the diktats of our morally vacuous ‘compassion culture’ and its virtue-signalling requirements, than question them.

But his judgment, made here, in the Family Division of the High Court, sets a terrible precedent.

It lives the lie there is no other way of coming to terms with death. It reflects the sad fact that traditional or religious ways to bring comfort to the dying – the idea of eternal existence in the presence of God – are fading.

It also betrays any understanding of the nature of our ‘societal sickness’ that led to this case in the first place.

The irony is that but for the loss of Christian faith and belief in the afterlife (doubt that science has engendered) this poor child might not have ended up demanding a ‘scientifically guaranteed’ afterlife – which in reality was nothing but deep freeze coffin, in fact a classic ‘brave new world’ illusion.

(Image: Tom Hodgkinson)

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Kathy Gyngell
Kathy Gyngell
Kathy is Editor of The Conservative Woman. She is @kathygyngelltcw on GETTR and is back on Twitter.

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