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Why Some People Choose to Amputate, and the Implications that Has for the Rest of Us

Why Some People Choose to Amputate, and the Implications that Has for the Rest of Us

For the majority of us, the amputation of a limb is something from our nightmares – the result of a horrific accident or debilitating illness, perhaps a birth defect – something to be avoided at all costs. It's certainly not something we would choose to do. Approximately 185,000[1] people in the US experience the amputation of a limb every single year but surprisingly, more and more people are opting for an elective amputation, an amputation that is not the result of a life-threatening defect but is voluntary, and one that is taken upon for a variety of different reasons. But why do people choose to have such a life-changing procedure? And what implications does that have for the rest of us?

 Elective Amputation of Problematic Limbs

Currently, the majority of elective amputees are those who are suffering from problematic – though not life-threatening – issues, such as damaged foot or a mangled knee. Although many doctors and surgeons still oppose the idea, these patients choose amputation as a way of improving their lives. It often ends painful suffering, can improve mobility, and offer a higher quality of life in general. Hugh Herr, double amputee and biophysicist in the biomechatronics department of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is one such person[2] and he believes that as time goes on, people will increasingly choose to amputate in order to replace their "heavy and stupid"[3] legs with high-concept, technological prostheses.