Healthy limb amputation: ethical and legal aspects.

Josephine Johnston, Carl Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


A surgeon in Scotland has amputated the legs of two consenting, physically healthy patients. Although a handful of medical professionals believe that the desire for healthy limb amputation is symptomatic of a mental disorder that can be treated only by amputation, there is currently no consensus on what causes a person to desire such a disabling intervention. As long as there is no established body of medical opinion as to the diagnosis and treatment of such a condition, performing the surgery may be a criminal act. Given the ethically problematic history of surgery for psychiatric conditions, as well as the absence of sound medical data on this condition, surgeons should exercise great caution before complying with a request to amputate a healthy limb.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-435
Number of pages5
JournalClinical medicine (London, England)
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2002


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