Thought I'd read it all....

by Country Girl 13 Replies latest jw friends

  • Country Girl
    Country Girl

    This is about one of the strangest "philias" I've ever read about. It even has a name. Do you think the Witnesses would consider this "porneia"? Would a person be disfellowshipped for an amputation?

    People who want healthy limbs removed are puzzling science

    June 6, 2001


    At any given moment, a small number of Americans are searching for a surgeon willing to cut off their perfectly healthy limbs.

    These men and women suffer from apotemnophilia, one of the most bizarre disorders in the annals of psychology, and they want to undergo amputations in order to "feel whole."

    "You have this foreign body and you want to get rid of it," said one man who found a doctor in Scotland willing to remove his right leg.

    But should such surgery even be allowed?

    "It just flies in the face of everything that medicine holds dear," said Stacy Running, a San Diego assistant district attorney who successfully brought murder charges against an unlicensed surgeon who botched a leg amputation on an 80-year-old man with the disease three years ago and let the man die of gangrene.

    Added Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Bioethics, "It seems indisputably ga-ga nuts to sit and reasonably talk back and forth about whether this should be done and where we are going to do it."

    Though some recent high-profile cases have captured the media's attention, apotemnophilia is not a new disorder.

    Medical experts have reported cases of amputation obsession since the 1860s, said Richard Bruno, a New Jersey psychophysiologist who specializes in brain-body disorders and is one of the few people in the world who have extensively studied apotemnophilia.

    No one knows how many people are obsessed with amputation. However, there are Web sites devoted to the subject. One is named after the Venus de Milo statue.

    Bruno has identified three groups within the larger community of people obsessed with amputation:

    "Pretenders" use wheelchairs, crutches and other devices to make people think they are disabled.

    "Devotees" are sexually attracted to people with amputations and disabled people, and will often search for them on the Internet.

    "Wannabes," who get the most attention, live for the removal of their healthy limbs.

    Usually, people with the disorder are men and they want one leg or both cut off, Bruno said. However, there are also female sufferers. They include Corinne, a California woman who refused to give her real name. She wants her legs removed.

    "For me, sexuality is being comfortable with my body," she said. "Inside, I feel my legs don't belong to me and shouldn't be there. There's just an overwhelming sense of despair sometimes."

    The cause of apotemnophilia isn't clear. John Money, a psychologist and sexuality expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, gave the disorder its name in 1977 and declared that people with the disorder have a sexual fetish centered on amputated limbs.

    Apotemnophilia has also been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and homosexuality.

    Some people with apotemnophilia say their obsession has nothing to do with sex; they say it's a body-image disorder that can be cured only through amputation.

    Taking a different tack, Bruno suggests that people with the disorder desperately seek attention and love from others.

    "What these people really want is to be accepted," he said. "They feel they are unlovable and want to be loved."

    Speculation dismissed

    But many people obsessed with amputation heatedly dismiss Bruno's theory.

    Gregg Furth, a New York City child psychologist who suffers from apotemnophilia, said the disorder revolves around feeling like a complete person.

    "It's about becoming whole, not becoming disabled," he said, adding that people with the obsession "feel there's an alien aspect of their body."

    Furth told a San Diego courtroom in 1999 that he first began obsessing about amputation when he was 4 or 5 years old. He's now in his mid-50s.

    His search for a cure -- amputation -- ultimately led him to John Ronald Brown, an underground doctor in San Diego. The 77-year-old Brown lacked a license to practice medicine.

    Furth and an 80-year-old friend, Philip Bondy, who also had apotemnophilia, traveled from New York to San Diego in 1998, both hoping to have Brown perform their amputations in Tijuana, Mexico. But Furth backed out.

    Bondy went ahead and had his left leg removed. Brown left him to recover in a Holiday Inn across the border in a San Diego suburb, where he died a few days later of gangrene.

    A jury convicted Brown of second-degree murder.

    Furth resurfaced in the news last year when he found a doctor in Scotland who was willing to amputate his right leg. The doctor had previously amputated the limbs of two other people with apotemnophilia.

    But the Scottish news media picked up on the plan, and the hospital where the operation was to take place quickly banned it.

    Caplan, one of the top medical ethicists in the United States, said apotemnophilia is clearly a medical disorder, and can't be cured by giving in to the disease.

    "It's like saying I'm a schizophrenic and I hear voices, so I want the doctors to communicate with my demons to exorcise them," he said.

    Bruno said people with apotemnophilia often live hellish lives.

    "I feel terrible for them," Bruno said. "There are just far more questions than answers about the disorder, and unfortunately, many of these questions may be unanswerable. We may never know why these guys want what they want."

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    My response to this disorder might be totally off the wall but it is my gut reaction to it and a bit of insight into people who hate their bodies

    My first instinct would be to ask if they had been abused. Yea I know here I go again but I will give some ideas that float around in my head about it.

    Many victims (and I am using this word deliberately) of abuse hate their bodies. They see their bodies as the tool that was used to hurt them. They don't feel connected to the body.

    Some people have told me they blame parts of their body for the abuse

    • if I didn't have breasts it would not havbe happened
    • if my feet had run away it would not have happened
    • my hand had to touch him and now I hate my hand

    I think this would apply to physical abuse as well as sexual abuse. I had one client who hated her hands because her mother used to slap them when she did something the mother didn't like.

    I could see if a person felt this way then they might want to get rid of the offending part. In reality there are many case histories of people mutilating the part of the body they find offensive in an attempt to rid themselves of the feelings they have.

    Interestingly some of these people have not only dissociated the part of the body they hold responsible for the abuse but they then dissociate the memory of it. Then they are left with the hatred but no reason for the hatred. They just want to get rid of what they percieve to be the offending part.

    As I said this is just conjecture on my part but it would be interesting to ask them those questions.

    And if this theory had any merit to it I would prefer the person deal with the underlying cause (whatever that was or is) instead of finding ways to get rid of or change their bodies

  • Country Girl
    Country Girl

    Very insightful response, LL. I was thinking that maybe they watched people garner sympathy using a disability when they were younger, and because they didn't get much sympathy from their cold parents, they "imprinted" and identified with this as a tool for getting attention. There was a documentary on this on television last night. It was called "Whole" and it was extremely interesting. Some of the older persons that have this disorder said they felt like that their whole lives, and even wrapped the offending part in bandages so they wouldn't have to look at it. One fellow even had his foot wrapped up against his hip, and wore large pants, so that it would appear as if he did not have a leg from the knee down. Very strange disorder. Kind of reminds me of Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

    Country Girl

  • Lady Lee
    Lady Lee

    The problem I see with the sympathy angle is that is so often backfires.

    I worked with people with disabilities for many years and had to mediate between disabled students and their profs at college and do sentitization programs for the college.

    While some people will be sympathetic many others are uncomfortable around people with disabilities (attitudes are changing in some places though). If the person with the faked disability percieves the discomfort from the other person I can see that might actually increase their desire to be rid of the offending part (in part ot make it whole but they may see the offending part as the problem)

    Body Dysmorphic Disorder
    Yup just about every one of my sexual abuse clients suffered from that as do I.
  • Leolaia

    Have you read Oliver Sacks? There may be a neurological explanation. Sacks, in his book "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," discusses the malfunction of sensory agnosia which is a failure of recognition of sensory input in the brain. Visual agnosia would be an inability to recognize and correctly categorize visual signals, auditory agnosia would be a failure to properly recognize speech, and tactile agnosia would represent a failure to recognize different touch sensations. The theory is that a person could be in a mixed state, with the brain recognizing touch signals from some parts of the body, but not others. For such a person, sensory input from one limb would feel like it "belongs" to that limb, whereas sensations from another limb might be "unrecognized," or imperfectly recognized. This could result in the feeling that the limb does not belong to the person's body -- in a kind of effect that is exactly opposite of the "phantom limb" effect.

  • Country Girl
    Country Girl

    One article I read on it says that it is connected with an OCD kind of disorder. Anxiety, maybe. Perhaps the person thinks that it is preferable to the discomfort of some, just for the sympathy and attention garnered from others. I don't know.

    Leo, did that guy write a book previous to that? I read a book maybe 15 years ago that talked about some very strange neurological disorders, and how they affected people. One that I found particulary interesting was that after a head trauma, a person woke up and didn't recognize his own hand. He just plain did not recognize the limb as his own, and couldn't for the life of him understand why it was "stuck" to him. Very strange. Or people that do not recognize an entire side of their body? Wow.. the mind surely is very powerful, and when something goes wrong can create havoc. I think I will order that book you mentioned Leo, as I am very curious about things like that.



  • Leolaia

    Yes, he has written a bunch of books, including "An Anthropologist on Mars". It's been a while since I looked at "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat," but that might be the book you are describing, I know the title refers to visual agnosia, but I think he covers over varieties as well.

  • Netty

    Gosh this is too weird. Just my perspective, coming from the angle of someone who had a brother in a trauma center for 3 months due to a motorcyle accident. He HAD to have 3 amputations on one leg, and what a terrible ordeal for him, both physically, psychologically, emotionally. I cant fathom someone intentionally wanting this, after what I saw him go through, and after what he still goes through, 12 years later.

  • truthseeker1

    Sounds like they should get psychological help before they get their limbs taken off.

  • kls

    OMG now i have heard it all ( not ) . That is so weird and gross. I had the top part of my shoulder taken off in surgery because of a torn Rotator Cuff that i let go so long it infected my shoulder bone and i won't touch it cause it grosses me out. Having part you the body taken off for no reason is mental illness.

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