The Lifespan Society was scheduled to go to court in June to challenge the constitutionality of s.14 of the Cremation, Interment, and Funeral Services Act (CIFSA), which prohibits the sale of cryonics arrangements sold on the expectation of resuscitation of human remains. The litigation had been making its way around numerous obstacles since 2015, including the government's repeated arguments that what Lifespan was seeking to offer prospective consumers in B.C. did not in fact fall within range of what s.14 prohibits. The problem with this was the government could not make any assurance that it wouldn't simply change its mind in the future after considerable expense and planning was expended on Lifespan's part. Thus, in order to get clarification on s.14, the Lifespan Society filed a revised notice of civil claim in 2016 which included a signed contract for cryonics services between the Lifespan Society, and member Keegan Macintosh.
Our court case centered around what exactly an "expectation of resuscitation" means in the context of s.14, and how broadly or narrowly it ought to be interpreted. Being unique in Canada and throughout the world, s.14 had never been tried before, thus there was essentially no guidance as to how exactly the law would be interpreted, leading to substantial uncertainty and anxiety on the part of B.C. cryonicists. Previous attempts at getting clarification had only gotten so far as receiving a letter from Consumer Protection B.C. which appeared to say that the sale of cryonics arrangements was prohibited within the province, but that arrangements with out-of-province providers were permitted. It was not at all clear whether organizations located in the province could offer standby and stabilization services (of particular interest to members of the Cryonics Institute, which does not provide these services). Also, some funeral directors approached by local cryonicists had expressed concern about getting involved in potentially prohibited activities. Thus, since 2012, Lifespan Society and its committed volunteer board of directors, and especially current President Carrie Wong and former Executive Director Keegan Macintosh had been slowly but surely moving this case along to gain much needed certainty around s.14, and hopefully persuade the court to see that it violated British Columbians rights under the Charter to life, liberty, and security of the person.
However, the week before the trial was to be heard in June, the government approached Lifespan's lawyers, Jason Gratl and Toby Rauch-Davis, with a peace offering in the form of a letter from Consumer Protection BC (the regulatory body tasked with enforcing s.14). The letter lays out the regulator's position that it does not view Lifespan's contract with Macintosh as being within its public interest mandate to investigate and prosecute for violating s.14. The letter is careful to note that a major part of its opinion is based on the apparent level of knowledge and understanding that Macintosh possesses about the science behind cryonics, and its prospects for success. Another important part of the regulator's current position on the matter is that for the moment only a very small market in B.C. is interested in cryonics, and there is no evidence that it is being targeted at vulnerable persons. Following the recommendation of our lawyers, we have decided to accept this comfort letter and not pursue further legal action since Consumer BC has no interest in litigating against Lifespan's current cryonics arrangements and activities. Provided that future contracts entered into between Lifespan and its members are under similar circumstances —that is, ensuring that they are fully apprised of and clearly understand the science informing the practice —we do not foresee regulator interference in local cryonics cases.
We are pleased with this outcome, and applaud the province for (eventually) taking the reasonable approach of providing guidance on whether s.14 would be applied to responsible cryonics practices like those we aim to provide for B.C. cryonicists. We maintain that the practice of cryonics is a protected exercise of our Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person, but also one that can be reasonably regulated—as with both the funeral and health services industries—to ensure that is not being practiced in a way that is harmful or misleading to consumers. This is a big step forward in the ability for British Columbians to confidently enter into cryonics arrangements with both local and out-of-province cryonics service providers.