Could I legally have a major part of my body removed?

Say I decide I want to have my leg cut off even though there is nothing wrong with it. Could I have this done given that I could find a doctor willing to do it?

I’m assuming it would be legal in most places for for to do anything short of death. I was just curious though…

For some reason, living in the litigious society we live in (assuming you are in the US) I doubt they would do it.

This seems to be a bit of a gray area.

I googled “voluntary amputation”. Came up with links that didn’t really answer your question on the legalities, but there are certainly those out there who wish to do what you are suggesting.

There is a little bit of information about apotemnophilia, a type of body dysmorphic disorder in which the patient wishes to be an amputee.

This article describes a case of a UK doctor that performed 2 amputations, and (as you might expect) a flurry of discussion ensued.

It sounds like right now there’s a bit of an ethical dilemma. Hippocratic oath versus individual freedom, etc.

You’d probably be hard pressed to find a doctor to do it, and even if you did, you’d still probably have a bit of explaining to do. So it probably wouldn’t be something easy to do, but I guess it could be done.

I have seen stories of women who, because of a family history of breast cancer, believe they are at high risk for the disease and have found doctors willing to give them, well, let’s call them pre-emptive mastectomies – even though there was no sign of cancer.

Still, I’d think that a physician who agreed to operate without at least some justification might be open to a criminal battery charge.

Or, you could do what this guy is (supposedly) doing, and amputate your own appendages with a homemade guillotine.

There was a large article in Atlantic Monthly a while back about people who desire to lop off arms & legs etc. Quite analogous to people who want sex change operations. They say things like (I’m serious) “I’ve just always thought of myself as being an amputee. Now my body matches who I really am.”

friggae, when I googled, I found another guy who had been amputating his toes. Himself. He had pictures of his feet, with basically little stubs!

And a lot of the sites I found are of the ilk that furt describes. Unfortunately they discussed mostly the psychological aspect of things, not the legal ones. That’s what I hoped to find, since it more answers the OP.

Also, an Online discussion group.

My wife nursed a patient who had some sort of body dismorphic disorder; he wanted one leg removed above the knee claiming that he was in constant pain but the doctors could find no evidence of anything wrong and psychiatrist suspected that there was something amiss; the medical authorities absolutely refused to do anything and he was discharged.

He was back in the ward after a few days; he had gone and sat on a train line and let the train take it off.


I just heard a report on NPR’s “Soundprint” (I think) where a non-voluntary amputee talked with a few of these folks (including the guy who has removed his toes). They all sounded sane and fairly normal, until you listened to what they were actually saying. It was a very eerie show. At least one of them had a doctor remove his leg. They also compared it to sex reassignment.

Search the SDMB archives for:

And prepare to cringe. This is awful stuff.