Cryonics is the practice of freezing a newly-dead body, for a fee, in hopes that death can be reversed and the terminal disease cured in the future. Whatever the medical improbability, let's imagine that part eventually does work. Now to the legal part - future generations won't necessarily want to revive every frozen body. What could legally compel them to?

There's been a question proposing a trust, but to my understanding dead people can't be beneficiaries of one. Heirs, if some exist, won't necessarily want to revive their ancestor (and potentially lose their inheritance). A trust could promise the estate to whomever revives the body, but it's likely that not all estates will keep up with the inflation.

Is there a contract or another legal mechanism that could enforce the frozen body's revival, if medically possible, under existing law?

  • 2
    Per science fiction, the simplest answer not under existing law is to just declare that frozen people aren't actually dead. But to get there would involve actually showing that someone could be frozen and revived, not just potentially revived some time in the future with tech that doesn't exist yet.
    – Bobson
    Feb 11 at 16:35
  • @bobson Even if you did that, who is going to enforce the contract?
    – JBentley
    Feb 12 at 11:00
  • @JBentley It'd depend on how the laws developed, but I'd expect it to be similar to how it's handled now for anyone who isn't legally competent to act on their own behalf, with all the opportunity for abuse of the position that that currently has. But that's definitely moving into Worldbuilding territory.
    – Bobson
    Feb 12 at 11:27

1 Answer 1


What could legally compel them to?


Whoever decides to spend part of their estate on feeding cryonics companies, can only count on his/her living associates/successors to see to the body being kept frozen properly, and revived if/when possible.

If they change their mind, there will be no one to say no.

  • 2
    I'm pretty sure once there's a known way to reawaken them our interpretation of the law will immediately flip to "that guy's not dead".
    – Joshua
    Feb 11 at 19:51
  • 1
    @Joshua Quite likely, however that won't necessarily change the fact that they were legally dead. In many jurisdictions, if you are declared dead and your assets distributed, then discovered to be alive, while you can resume a new life, you cannot claim back your assets (including contractual claims). So your scenario may well require new legislation. On the other hand, declaring the person to be alive might then compel a country's healthcare system (e.g. the NHS) to revive them.
    – JBentley
    Feb 12 at 11:03
  • @Joshua That may be. However, if they don't have a contract now that could enforce their resurrection...
    – Therac
    Feb 13 at 11:48

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