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Should We Amputate Someone’s Healthy Limb If They So Desire?

How far should we go in enabling people to shape their own physical identities? The Guardian on the ethical quandary posed by Body Integrity Identity Disorder:

In January 2000, the mass media ran several stories about Robert Smith, a surgeon at the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary who had amputated the legs of two patients at their own request and was planning a third amputation. The director of NHS trust running the hospital at which Smith works described the amputation of healthy limbs as “inappropriate”; since then, no British hospital has performed a voluntary amputation.

The first documented case of BIID dates back to a medical textbook published in 1785, by the French surgeon and anatomist Jean-Joseph Sue, who described the case of an Englishman who fell in love with a one-legged woman, and wanted to become an amputee himself so that he could win her heart. He offered a surgeon 100 guineas to amputate his leg and, when the surgeon refused, forced him to perform the operation at gunpoint.

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