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kottke.org posts about amputation

Meet the people who want voluntary amputations

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2012

Matter, a new publication that raised funds on Kickstarter, has launched and their first story is fantastic. Do No Harm by Anil Ananthaswamy profiles those suffering from Body Integrity Identity Disorder…people who believe that one or more of their limbs don’t belong to them and want them amputated.

Sitting at home in a small, somewhat rural American town not too far from the ocean, Patrick recalled the day his wife found out about his obsession. It was during the mid-’90s. As with almost all BIID sufferers, Patrick was fascinated with amputees, so he began downloading pictures of them off the Internet and printing them out. One day his wife was sitting in front of their computer, while Patrick sat in a wingback chair. She noticed a pile of printouts. They were images of men, but “completely clothed, no nudes or anything like that.” It was an awkward moment. “She was thinking that maybe I was gay,” Patrick recalls. “I must have been crimson.” Patrick asked her to take a closer look. She did, and soon realised that the men were all amputees.

Patrick told his wife that he had felt odd about his leg since he was four years old, a feeling that eventually grew into an all-consuming desire to be rid of it. It was a shock: they had been married for decades, and the revelation that he had been hiding something was hard to take. But his confession also brought relief. For more than four decades he had suffered alone. Growing up in small-town America, with conservative parents, in an era when “people didn’t believe in going and seeing mental health professionals,” Patrick was mystified by what he felt.

The last third of the piece, in which Ananthaswamy accompanies a BIID sufferer to have an amputation in Asia, was really difficult to read…powerful stuff. The piece is 99 cents for web/ePub/Kindle versions.