“Semi-Voluntary” Amputation Interviews

This set of interviews is sort of in a grey-space of body modification where it’s not entirely clear whether it’s medical necessity or whether it’s voluntary body modification… On one hand the amputation solves a very real medical issue, but on the other hand, much of the medical community disagrees that this is the right solution. Three stories are included — a foot fetishist who had a deformed toe removed, a body modification enthusiast who had his leg amputated after five years of pain following a car accident, and a BME member who had an immobile finger amputated. All of these were by doctors, without subterfuge.

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

32 thoughts on ““Semi-Voluntary” Amputation Interviews

  1. These cases I understand. But I dont think il ever see what kicks people get out of voluntary amputations.

  2. After beign around a few family members having no leg mobility and/or chronic pain, this is seeming like a more and more viable option to those who cannot heal fully. I hope the medical profession will open up more to amputating useless/painful extremities.

  3. not necessarily unrelated, but there was a House episode with a flash back of Dr. House’s infarction in his leg. his wife was debating having it amputated to prevent him from experiencing pain. i don’t see why on earth a doctor wouldn’t remove a useless limb that was causing significant discomfort. at the same time, i understand that a phantom limb can be quite unpleasant – but it should definitely be the decision of the patient. in regards to a deformity, i’m a little torn. what one person views as deformed, may just be normal. there are so many serious side effects and complications that i can understand why a doctor would refuse most voluntary amputations. as a treatment for pain, though, i don’t see any reasons why they wouldn’t.

  4. that didn’t come out right so i’m sorry for the double post. i mean that i don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to – make the patient sign something or whatever so you don’t sue. i get that they don’t want to.

    just thought i’d clear that up :)

  5. I think this is one of my favorite interviews: the focus on the quality of life carries over to the people who voluntarily get amps w/o a medical needs. Esp for the leg amp because it was not just the pain we was trying to get away from, it was body image and even after the amp the pain remained but he feels that his quality of life has improved

  6. really interesting. I’m in favor whether it is voluntary (to relieve mental pressure or obsessions/interest) or involuntary (for pain or mobility issues)…it’s always fascinating to hear what people who have gone through this have to say.

  7. I remember having seen something like that on French TV once. A guy had a bad car accident in which he had one arm torn off. The surgeons reattached it but it as so painful and useless to him that he just decided to have it amputated, and he lead a fine life after it.

    Interesting interviews by the way, as usual !

  8. This makes much more sense to me. This is about making their lives better. These people aren’t intentionally disabling themselves. The pain of their previous injuries or conditions had already caused them to be slightly disabled. I believe these people are probably able to function better as amputees then as whole people.

    I also think that that is very different from the case of some voluntary amputees. As open-minded as I am about personal identity and choice, I will never be able to be OK with people that disable themselves in an attempt “to feel whole”.

  9. Not having Zentastic to read any more, I had forgotten about your leg, Shannon. How is it going? Hope it is starting to get a little better :/

    Good set of interviews; refreshing to have something outside of the ‘woo! yeah!’ format.



  10. Excellent interviews. I like that they all say they’d only do it sooner if they did it different. Very telling on the doctors that won’t do it or make you wait.

  11. I have an overlapping toe, and when I was a kid, the doctors asked if it caused me pain, and if it did, that they “would fix it”. I assume this meant amputation. It’s interesting to see others who actually had something done about it, but I rather like my toe, it gives my foot character.

  12. I wouldn/t call all these cases volunteer at all. The libs were distroyed, far beyond simply uselessness. They were painful, and in case of the leg even destructive for the rest of the body, forcing the man into wheelchair. Both other limbs at least were massively disturbing all day live. These amputations were medical necessities, and I wonder why not the MDs per se already said “Sorry we can’t correct that, lets think about amputation” (what as much as I know would be asked in Austria)

  13. If anyone’s interested in learning more about phantom limb pain, a couple of great books are Phantoms in the Brain by Ramachandran and A Leg to Stand On by Oliver Sacks.

  14. though i never had my leg amputated i’ve had had extensive trauma to it. parts of my bones grafted, both tib and fib fused together, ankle fused, toes straightened etc. i remember that deep seated itch in the bone. one of those feeling you can never forget.

    25 years later though very rare now i still on ocassion feel that burn and itch.

  15. Badur, I’d be interested in knowing (if it isn’t too personal) how you feel about having lived with the pain for years vs. still having a limb with occasional pain/discomfort. I was just wondering if, given the chance to do it differently, you would have chosen to get rid of it – risking phantom limb pain- or if having your leg now outweighs all that?

    Thanks for the books, Amy. I think I’ll try to find them at our campus library.

    Shannon, my roommate and I were talking about your interviews. do you think you could maybe find someone willing to talk about a mod they’ve had done (whether amputation or whatever) that’s negatively impacted them. Whether they are still do it or not, it’d be interesting to get both sides of the story especially with this topic since so many people seem torn.
    *just a quick note, I was only able to read the first half of the article as my school is having internet connectivity issues always :) if the article covers all that, then just disregard me – I’ll track it down again someother time!

  16. Amy – You brought up a fascinating work by Ramachandran. I don’t know if many people are familiar with the TED Conference, but you can watch the lectures online. Dr. Ramachandran gave an amazing talk at TED where he talked about phantom limb pain and its interaction with the brain.


    Thats the link to the talk. Its really amazing and well worth the watch if anyone is interested in either neuroscience or phantom limb pain.

  17. I don´t get why BME is being so pro-amputation lately. Really, It seems like you´re trying to make an amputation boom happen all of the sudden.

  18. I loved the interviews. Especially the MINUS ONE-guy, as I’ve been thinking about having my right ring finger amputated. It has been damaged since I was a year old, from having it caught in a door. It’s still fully mobile, but the nail is crooked, and I think I’d like my hand far better, from an aesthetic point of view, if I had two joints removed.

  19. nope: up until maybe 5 years ago i continued to think what life would have been if they had just taken it off. but i wanted to do that for aesthetic reasons. i felt that not having the leg would look better than all the scars and skin grafts. I hated wearing shorts or having my leg shown in public until recently and thought i’d have been more comfortable showing it off if it was a prosthetic.

    the pain and discomfort i think would have just been worse though since it’s like starting over again with the itch etc. no way i want to feel the intensity of that again.

    Nowadays i am a lot more comfortable with my leg being seen in public. i’ll even wear shorts at bmefest. being on bme and having a much better support group has helped me overcome those feelings.

    As for whether i’m better off one way or the other… who knows. to me both have an equal amount of pros and cons. the dice was rolled for me years ago and they chose to save my leg. i honestly dont know if it would have been easier without it.

    25 years later i’ve learnt to accept and embrace what i have and it’s nice to know people really do dig scars :)

  20. badur- thanks for sharing your point of view so openly! and i think scars can really tell someone’s story. when i first started college, we had to do this ice breaker with other freshman where we chose a scar on our body and told how we got it – it really did break the ice and you learned so much about strangers. it was so fun and different that four years later i still remember people because of the story they told and the scar they showed.

    matt- thanks for the link. his whole speech was very interesting and he did an amazing job of explaining phantom limb pain and what goes on in the brain to cause it. i highly recommend watching it to anyone who hasn’t!

  21. I think it’s funny how John refers to people who stare as “sackless assholes” when he is thinking of having his own sack removed.

    It’s kind of like when Atheists “Thank God”.

  22. Interesting, but I have to comment on John’s comparison of women getting hysterectomies and mastectomies to cosmetic surgery. It was a generalized and uneducated comment. Women can’t just get hysterectomies and mastectomies willy-nilly, and they certainly don’t get them for aesthetic purposes the way women get lipo and boob jobs. My own mother suffered for years with severe reproductive issues, including cancer, before a qualified gynecologist relented and gave her the hysterectomy she had needed long ago. And women can only get mastectomies “right off the bat” if they have breast cancer and a lumpectomy won’t get it all! Even FTM trannies have to get psychiatric consent before they have a cosmetic mastectomy done.

    I completely agree with him about the medical profession’s veering away from the “quality of life” line of thought, but he needed to think twice about his comparisons and not comment on something he quite apparently knows so little about.

  23. A few notes from me to Amber first:

    Yes unfortunately in most areas you are correct. There again is the attitude of health care givers that they know what’s best and you don’t. However in some areas there are more enlightened MD’s and other providers that do take to heart the “Patch Adams” school of medicine and health care. I have dealt with both the high and mighty and the compassionate who also listen and provide what the person needs to be whole.
    Yes I generalized in some areas but truth of the matter is you can walk into a plastic surgeons office in Ca. plunk down cash and have major surgery down to your body Lipo. reductions implants collagen you name it no psych involved and in many of these cases psych’s should be involved! Hell look at that woman who has had over 300 surgeries to sculpt herself into a Barbie doll. However my wife has been a RN for 30 years and can vouch for many cases like those that I refered to.
    Next kookynut
    Maybe I should rephrase that shall we say tactless morons with no manners or class? I stated quite clearly why I am considering that and manners has nothing to do with ones genitalia just what is missing between the ears or in their upbringing.

    Next Stromchaser
    You raise a valid point. However you are way off base in the medical necessary area. You would be correct if the amputation was to SAVE owns life. However in each of us it was a “quality of life” No the limbs fingers were not totally destroyed the majority of the leg was quite healthy it just could not function in a practical manner. I mean the muscles worked the toes worked etc. but it could not support me as the bone never fused. So from the view of the majority of the MD’s it was a viable “Healthy” non functional limb. This is a big distinction from a functional limb. I could have quite happily lived a life with the leg still attached albeit it would have been a more disabled life then what I have now.
    Yes while I have a lot of pain and need to get what are called TPI’s (trigger point injections) to control it to a degree I am healthier losing weight that bulked up doing some of the things I used to although a lot slower, my overall life is better and am happier.

  24. i want to know more about human voluntary castration and i want to see photos of castrated men and also i want to see if possible photos of female castration and genital mutilation ie mgf female genital mutilation , female circumcision women that had yours clitoris cut off. i,m a man who wants to be castrated i have cut off one of my testicles and i want to cut off the other. i like castration and i want to know men who have been castrated {only their testicles[ mi dream is to be castrated and to marry a woman. is it possible?

  25. i want to know more about human voluntary castration and i want to see photos of castrated men and also i want to see if possible photos of female castration and genital mutilation ie mgf female genital mutilation , female circumcision women that had yours clitoris cut off. i,m a man who wants to be castrated i have cut off one of my testicles and i want to cut off the other. i like castration and i want to know men who have been castrated {only their testicles[ mi dream is to be castrated and to marry a woman. is it possible?

  26. I applaud BME for covering every aspect of body modifcation without predjudice. If there was a part of my body that caused me constant aggrivation, I’d apt to lose it.

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