We are witnessing the beginning of the public normalization of the profound mental illness known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID)–also known as “amputee wannabe” because its sufferers become obsessed with losing one or more limbs. This column published in The Guardian is an example: Susan Smith (not her real name) writes about wanting to have both legs amputated because “the image I have of myself has always been one without legs.”
To achieve these ends, Susan harmed herself so that one leg would have to be removed. And now, she plans to do it again: “Removing the next leg will not be any easier than the first; the pain will be horrendous. But I have no regrets about the path I have chosen. In fact, if I regret anything, it is that I didn’t do this sooner. For the first time in my life, I can get on with being the real me.”
And here’s the normalizing part: “I think BIID will stay taboo until people get together and bring it out. A hundred years ago, it was taboo to be gay in many societies, and 50 years ago the idea of transsexuals was abhorrent to most. I have tried to make the condition more understood but it is difficult to get a case out in the open by yourself. My psychiatrist went to a meeting last year in Paris, and many doctors there told her that they had operated on people who needed an amputation under mysterious circumstances, and how happy the person was when they woke up. It led them to believe that perhaps BIID is more prevalent than people think.”
Something has gone terribly wrong with us at a profound and fundamental level. And deeper minds than mine need to figure out precisely what it is. Because, in the name of “being myself” we are moving toward normalizing mutilating surgery. Indeed, I have already attended a transhumanist conference where two Ph.Ds advocated that doctors be allowed to remove healthy limbs. And it has been suggested as worth considering in a professional journal article, as I wrote here. (And here is an exchange between the authors of the article and me, after they took me to task for my comments in the earlier linked article.) What next? Help people who want to cut themselves slice themselves repeatedly? Or burn themselves, do it safely? Or what about kill themselves? Oh, that’s right. It is already explicitly legal to help do that in Oregon, the Netherlands, Belgium,and Switzerland.
People like Susan is need to be protected from harming themselves. We used to have the basic humanity and decency to understand that. But we have become so in the thrall of radical individualism, I wonder whether we still do. “Choice” is becoming a voracious monster.
HT: Gregory Ford