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Apotemnophilia: ethical considerations of amputating a healthy limb
  1. A Dua
  1. Correspondence to Anahita Dua, University of Aberdeen Medical School, G06 Room A, Mealmarket Exchange, Mealmarket Street, Aberdeen AB24-5SW, Scotland; Anahita46{at}


Apotemnophilia is a condition that causes those who have it to not feel “correct” in their own bodies. As a result, an intense obsession develops with removing the limb; this obsession hinders tremendously the patients' social behaviour and societal integration. These patients, in some respects resembling transgendered individuals, feel that the body part (limb) in question is simply “not a part of themselves”, causing them to feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. Whether amputations should be performed on apotemnophiles or not is a question that poses a significant medical ethical dilemma. It is argued that observing an apotemnophile's request for amputation is the ethical action. The major arguments opposing such amputations and supporting such amputations are examined and critically analysed with regard to ethical principles—namely, patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice with regard to every person's “right to happiness”. Finally, a discourse on how the accepted notion of harm does not apply to apotemnophilia is developed to justify the position that amputation is indeed medically the ethical choice.

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Anahita Dua is a student in her final year of medical school at the University of Aberdeen.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.