Elective amputee tells her story

Susan Smith (a pseudonym) is one of a small group of individuals who are essentially amputee wannabes. They have "body integrity identity disorder," a psychiatric condition marked by an overwhelming desire to have one more limbs amputated. Smith told her story in The Guardian in a first-person essay titled "I won't be happy until I lose my legs." Last June, Susan elected to have one leg amputated. She hopes to have her second one removed in the future. From the article:

There is no instruction manual for those who want to remove their own limbs, but I always knew I would do it. I had eventually, told my husband that one day I would lose my legs. It took many years for him to understand why, but he did realise it was part of me, and I suppose he accepted it.

Two years ago, I told him that now was the time and I was going to remove my left leg. My first attempt was in March 2005. Of course I was scared of dying, but I had got to a point in my life where I could no longer fight it.

First I needed to freeze and kill the leg so that surgeons would amputate it afterwards. I ordered dry ice pellets from a company near Edinburgh (the same stuff that is used in discos for the smoke effect). Nobody asked what it was for. I bought 40kg – it evaporates very quickly, so you have to buy a great deal. I put on layers of pantyhose, because you do not want it sticking to you, spread it in the back of the car and sat with my leg immersed in it for one hour. The pain was indescribable: it hurt so much I passed out a few times. I was scared, but more so of failure. I am that kind of person – I never fail.

I had not damaged the leg enough to have it amputated in hospital, so the following September I made a second attempt..


• Amputee wannabes Link
• Rugby player opts for amputation Link