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Body integrity identity disorder (BIID) is a very rare condition in which people experience long-standing anguish because there is a mismatch between their bodies and their internal image of how their bodies should be. Most typically, these people are deeply distressed by the presence of what they openly acknowledge as a perfectly normal leg. Some with the condition request that their limb be amputated.1 We and others have argued that such requests should be acceded to in carefully selected patients.1–4 Consistent with this view, a group at the University of Sydney is developing a programme to better understand and treat BIID and to offer amputation if appropriate.
In a recent paper, Patrone argues that such amputations should be prohibited.5 He suggests that authors supporting amputation in BIID depend on analogies with more familiar conditions and then claim that the ‘the desires, choices and requests of BIID patients should be held to exactly the same standards and treated with exactly the same respect as the desires, choices and requests of any more conventional patient’.5 He believes that these analogies are invalid and that therefore the arguments for amputation are invalid.
Patrone concentrates a great deal upon whether a decision to have a particular medical intervention is to be regarded as ‘rational’. Unfortunately, he makes no attempt to define what he …