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. 2009 Sep;35(9):541-5.
doi: 10.1136/jme.2009.029256.

Disfigured Anatomies and Imperfect Analogies: Body Integrity Identity Disorder and the Supposed Right to Self-Demanded Amputation of Healthy Body Parts

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Disfigured Anatomies and Imperfect Analogies: Body Integrity Identity Disorder and the Supposed Right to Self-Demanded Amputation of Healthy Body Parts

D Patrone. J Med Ethics. .

Abstract

Patients with the controversial diagnosis of body integrity identity disorder (BIID) report an emotional discomfort with having a body part (usually a limb) that they feel should not be there. This discomfort is so strong that it interferes with routine functioning and, in a majority of cases, BIID patients are motivated to seek amputation of the limb. Although patient requests to receive the best available treatment are generally respected, BIID demands for amputation, at present, are not. However, what little has been said in the ethics literature on the subject tends to favour doing so in cases of BIID. The general argument is that BIID demands should be respected, first, because of the importance that is already placed on respecting autonomy in medical decision-making contexts and second, because of the potential harm of not providing amputation coupled with the fact that no alternative means of relieving suffering exists. The defence of the right to self-demanded amputation is thus typically supported by the use of analogies with other unproblematical cases in order to show that the denial of BIID patient demands is inconsistent with conventional medical norms and practices. This paper criticises the appropriateness of the particular analogies that are thought to shed light on the allegedly unproblematical nature of BIID demands and argues that a proper understanding of the respect for autonomy in the medical decision-making context prohibits agreeing to BIID demands for amputation.

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