Transhumanism and Law

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Sentient rights

Main Article: Sentient rights

Nonhuman Animals

The Nonhuman Rights Project has claimed to be working towards rights for nonhuman animals in the United States, England, Spain, France, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Portugal, Argentina, Israel, Turkey, India, and Australia.[1]


Sandra, a Sumatran orangutan, was declared a legal person in Argentina in 2014.[2]

United States

A court case brought by PETA against SeaWorld, arguing that their treatment of whales constituted slavery and therefore violated the 13th Amendment of the United States Consitution, was dismissed by a federal judge.[3]

Work for recognition of legal personhood for Tommy, a male Chimpanzee in the State of New York, began in 2013 and has been denied, pending appeal.[4]

Ecological and Geographical Systems and Locations


In India, the Ganges and Yamuna rivers were granted legal personhood in 2017.[5]


The Colombian Amazon was declared a person by the Colombian Supreme Court in April 2018.[6] A similar decision was made in 2016 regarding the Atrato River basin.[7]

New Zealand

The Whanganui river in New Zealand was declared a legal person in 2017 after efforts by the local Māori tribe.[5][8]

Mount Taranaki was granted similar status in December 2017.[9]

United States

Despite being ineligible for legal personhood, a white oak tree in Athens, Georgia is known as The Tree That Owns Itself or The Jackson Oak (along with its direct descendant, Son Of The Tree That Owns Itself), and is locally considered to have legal ownership of itself and several feet of land immediately surrounding it. This dates to at least 1890 with an anonymous article in the August 12, 1890 edition of the Athens Weekly Banner.[10]

Canon Law

In the canon law of the Catholic Church, some churches, monasteries, and diocese may possess juridic personality.[11] Unlike individuals, persona ficta are considered to not have souls, avoiding complicating issues of social and religious obligation.

Devices and Drugs

See also: Transhumanism and drugs, Transhumanism and medical deregulation

Implants and Prosthetics

United Kingdom

Neil Harbisson's UK passport includes his custom prosthesis for color perception, which as been publicly presented as "effectively sanctioning it as part of his face."[12]

United States

Following a July 2012 assault at a McDonalds in Paris, France, Steve Mann partnered with multiple organizations to ensure legal safeguards to reciprocate commercial surveillance with personal sousveillance by proposing the Mann-Wassel Law to lawmakers for introduction to the New York legislature.[13]

Transcranial Direct-Current Stimulation

Main Article: Transcranial direct-current stimulation

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration may cover tDCS in most, but possibly not all circumstances.[14][15][16]

Personal Biometric, Genetic, and Medical Information

Genetic Information

Companies offering genetic testing services, including 23andMe and have been issued warrants by the United States Government for customer data.[17][18]

Legal Definitions of Death

Main article: Death

United States

Since 1981, legal death in most states in the United States has been governed under the Uniform Determination of Death Act's guidance. This defines death by two standards: cardiopulmonary death and brain death, determined by cessation of relevant organ function.[19]

Cryonics and Preservation


The Canadian province of British Columbia's Cremation, Interment, and Funeral Services Act addresses cryonics and other preservation methods as follows: [20]

A person must not offer for sale or sell any arrangement for the preservation or storage of human remains based on cryonics, irradiation or any other means of preservation or storage, by whatever name called, that is offered or sold on the expectation of the resuscitation of human remains at a future time.

This led to a lawsuit in 2016 by Keegan Macintosh and the Lifespan Society of British Columbia against the provincial government, which responded that "Only the vendor, and not the purchaser, of cryonics services is potentially caught by the prohibition."[21]

The inclusion of "irradiation" as a supposed method of preservation has been cited as evidence of biased motivation in creation of the law.[22]

United Kingdom

In England, a 14 year old girl with terminal cancer (unnamed publicly for legal reasons) successfully argued to a Family Division court for her desire to be cryopreserved to be respected, despite being a minor and therefore unable to issue a legally binding will.[23]

United States

Dora Kent controversy

Main Article: Dora Kent

Dora Kent was cryopreserved after her death in 1987 in California. A legal battle and controversy ensued between Alcor Life Extension Foundation (including her son, Saul Kent) and the Riverside County coroner, as she was not declared legally dead until after her cryopreservation.

2004 Arizona House Bill 2637

In February 2004, HB 2637[24] was introduced into the Arizona State Legislature by Representative Bob Stump.[25] The bill sought to extend state embalming regulations and licensing to cover the storage of human remains. The bill was later withdrawn.

Alcor Life Extension Foundation v. Richardson

Main Article: Orville Richardson

In 2010, an Iowa appeals court found in favor of Alcor, which filed a lawsuit to disinter the remains of Orville Richardson.[26] Richardson had made arrangements for cryopreservation which were ignored by his family.

Nectome controversy

Nectome made headlines in 2018 after stating that US states with voluntary euthanasia laws, including California, were most amenable to their aldehyde-Stabilized cryopreservation technique.[27]

External Links


  1. Nonhuman Rights Project - Litigation
  2. Captive orangutan has human right to freedom, Argentine court rules - Richard Lough, Reuters (December 21, 2014)
  3. PETA’s SeaWorld Slavery Case Dismissed By Judge - Joanna Zelman, Huffington Post (February 09, 2012)
  4. Nonhuman Rights Project - Client:Tommy
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ganges and Yamuna rivers granted same legal rights as human beings - Michael Safi, The Guardian (Tuesday, March 21, 2017)
  6. The Colombian Amazon Is Now a 'Person', and You Can Thank Actual People - Yessenia Funes, Earther (Monday, April 09, 2018)
  7. Colombian River Gains Legal Rights - Sarah Bardeen, International Rivers (Thursday May 11, 2017)
  8. New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being - Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian (Thursday, March 16, 2017)
  9. New Zealand gives Mount Taranaki same legal rights as a person - Eleanor Ainge Roy, The Guardian (Friday, December 22, 2017)
  10. Deeded to Itself - Athens Weekly Banner (August 12, 1890)
  11. Code of Canon Law, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
  12. World's first cyborg wants to hack your body - Madeleine Stix, CNN (January 7, 2016)
  13. McVeillance and the Mann-Wassel Law - WearCam
  14. A pragmatic analysis of the regulation of consumer transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) devices in the United States - Anna Wexler, PubMed (October 12, 2015)
  15. What lies ahead for FDA regulation of tDCS products? - Patricia J. Zettler, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Volume 3, Issue 2 (August 01, 2016)
  16. Minding the ‘gaps’ in the federal regulation of transcranial direct current stimulation devices - Andreas Kuersten Roy H. Hamilton, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Volume 3, Issue 2, (August 01, 2016)
  17. That DNA you send in can help trace your ancestry. Police, too, may be interested. - Monique O Madan, Miami Herald (November 17, 2017)
  18. 23andMe Transparency Report
  19. What is the Uniform Declaration of Death Act (UDDA)? - FindLaw
  20. Cremation, Interment, and Funeral Services Act, British Columbia, Canada
  21. B.C. man signs first-of-its-kind Canadian cryonic contract - Jason Proctor, CBC News (November 25, 2016)
  23. Dying girl convinces judge to let her body be frozen - Associated Press, November 18, 2016
  24. Original text of AZ HB 2637, Alcor
  25. Chronology of Attempted 2004 Cryonics Legislation in Arizona - [Alcor Life Extension Foundation] Library
  27. Startup wants to upload your brain to the cloud, but has to kill you to do it - Alex Hern, The Guardian (Wednesday, March 14, 2018)