Is voluntary quadruple amputation possible?
January 29, 2015 12:33 AM   Subscribe

The reason for the question is behind the cut, but basically I'm trying to find out if something like that is even remotely possible.

A friend has an Internet friendship that's turning kind of serious, and this friend claims that they had a voluntary quadruple amputation three months ago while in the US. Internet Friend says they have a nurse come by to see them four or five times a week, and otherwise are entirely on their own.

I can't think of any way it would be possible for someone to do that to themselves and survive-- and I also can't imagine that any competent doctor would do it, either. The lack of outside assistance also seems, to me, to be unlikely.

(Possibly not coincidentally, my friend has never met this person IRL; and Internet Friend has started hinting at financial troubles.)
posted by ElaineMc to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This reeks of scam.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:00 AM on January 29, 2015 [47 favorites]

Voluntary, as in, not medically necessary? No way in hell, that would be crazy illegal. I've read articles about people with amputation fetishes, and they have to go to other countries and do all kinds of shady stuff just to have one limb removed.

I would guess this is a scam for cash, or somebody with a fetish play-acting, or both.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:04 AM on January 29, 2015 [14 favorites]

I cannot imagine that any doctor would sign off on the amputation of all four limbs for anything except the most dire medical emergency.

This is a either a scam, or someone playing mind games.
posted by pharm at 1:09 AM on January 29, 2015

Best answer: On the internet with what, a text to speech setup? Because they aren't typing. Your friend should go through past text conversations and look for typos... typos should, if they are really using text to speech, be based on how a word sounds, not keystrokes.
posted by gryftir at 1:11 AM on January 29, 2015 [39 favorites]

Did they meet on 4chan?
posted by devnull at 1:18 AM on January 29, 2015

Is it possible? A sufferer of body integrity identity disorder might seek out a way to do this. They might injure themselves in a way that required amputation.

However, this is a scam. At best, it's a person who suffers from BIID and pretends they are an amputee. My money is on full-blown scam by a physically healthy individual.

Wait until a medical professional chimes in on what recovery and life would look like 3 months post-op.

On preview, what gryftir said is spot-on as a means of identifying one of the innumerable red flags that will point to a scam.
posted by ellenaim at 1:20 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Voluntary, or elective? Because elective could meant that it wasn't an emergency surgery, but it had to be carried out, without urgency, for a medically necessary reason. I can't fathom at the moment what that might be, but an elective surgery is just a scheduled surgery.

But yes, I agree that it sounds very suspicious.
posted by WasabiFlux at 1:35 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

"I spent all my money getting all my limbs illegally cut off and now I can't make any money so will you give me your money" is the stupidest scam I have ever heard of. Are you sure your friend isn't putting you on?
posted by aubilenon at 1:46 AM on January 29, 2015 [36 favorites]

Hippocratic oath: first do no harm. No doctor in a million million years would do this for one limb, let alone four
posted by smoke at 2:55 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, this is a scam. While people with BIID exist, they are rare. According to this article, there are only 300 documented cases. It is astronomically unlikely that any surgeon in the US would ever conduct a medically unnecessary amputation. This article includes the story of a US man with BIID who had to go to Asia to find a surgeon to remove his leg.

Technically, a quadruple amputation is survivable - for example, there are soliders who have been injured in IED attacks and similar, lost all four limbs, and survived. No one is going to survive it without a great deal of medication attention though.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:59 AM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Who's got two thumbs and is scamming your friend? This pen pal.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:20 AM on January 29, 2015 [25 favorites]

I actually met someone who had one limb removed voluntarily - in the US - when it was not medically necessary (foot and lower leg). But as I recall, she had to go to three doctors and it was very hard. I can't imagine it happening for all four.
posted by corb at 3:30 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I find it impossible to believe a doctor would amputate four limbs because you've effectively created a complete and totally dependant invalid as soon as they wake from the anaesthetic. Well..until they could get rehab/prosthetics. Some doctors have amputated healthy limbs in the past. But not four. That's some mighty fine bull shit.

And is your friend on crack believing it?! Friend needs to find a hobby fast. And some actual friends. And boundaries. Friend is a big ol' softie. And ridiculously gullible.

Poor friend. I send your friend hugs. Having your compassion screwed is horrible.
posted by taff at 4:03 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Friend grew up in a pretty bad situation-- spent several years living with her abusive parent, both bringing in money, and acting as a medical aid (parent was diabetic, refused to accept treatment, ended up losing part of both feet, blamed Friend, etc). So Friend is, unfortunately, prone to feeling as if they're responsible for people in need, and tends to spend waaaaay too much time trying to fix other people's problems.

They've been scammed before now, although not quite so obviously; and they're not dumb, so maybe it'll help to have some outside validation-- like the info you guys have provided; I don't think it'll hurt, anyway.

posted by ElaineMc at 4:18 AM on January 29, 2015

FWIW, many liars tell better lies than most people tell the truth. Your friend is not dumb for having fallen into the orbit of such a nasty person. Best of luck to her, you're being a great friend. Let her down gently.

Also FWIW, I did a FPP about BIID a while ago.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:25 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

You can also look at it this way: as others said it is highly unlikely that this actually happened to a real person. How likely is it that such a person would reach out to Internet strangers in the described fashion? How are the odds, that this reach-out ends up with your friend specifically?

Now, how much easier would a scam be to perform?
posted by Namlit at 4:54 AM on January 29, 2015

Best answer: It occurs to me that the person may not be mentioning their money troubles as a scam for cash, but because they want more sympathy. That's a lot less evil, but a lot more sad.

I actually met someone who had one limb removed voluntarily - in the US - when it was not medically necessary (foot and lower leg).

Not to derail, but wha..? Do you mean somebody with BIID, and she had an elective amputation performed in the US? I was under the impression that that just wasn't done, here.

Cool post, Stitcherbeast.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:09 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Skype Is free. Ask for a video chat?
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:09 AM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

I've been watching Dr. Phil ALOT (So, so bored) and every week he's got a catfish story on. Perhaps check the archives and watch some.

One guy left his wife, who was dying of cancer, for his catfish. Then SHE claimed to get cancer. Then called him from heaven. I shit you not.

One little old lady's catfish moved from her city in South Carolina to Nigeria(!) Then had the little old lady send money, cars even her bedroom furniture so he could set up their home. Even after all the evidence was presented to her, including having the guy whose picture was sent to her tracked down and refuted. This woman would NOT believe that her 'soul mate' was just a scammer.

I'm not even going to get into the lady who posted her teenaged grandchild's picture on a dating site so she could Catfish a 40 something dude.

It's a horrible world out there, and it seems that the desire to make these connections is so strong that no evidence will get people to unclench and give up on them. People find it very easy to get deeply, deeply involved with people on the internet. And there is no limit to the perverse reasons people do this. Money is just one of them.

Even if she can intellectually wrap her head around the fact that this guy/gal is lying, her emotions may be too entangled to be a good judge, and she may not disengage.

I wish you luck. These people are horrible or sick or so freaking empty, it's sad really, but it doesn't give them the right to drag others into their sad world.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:34 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just to add to the chorus: scam scam scam.

As noted above: There's no way any US doctor, reputable or not, would do this --- a reputable one because s/he is reputable, a non-reputable one because they wouldn't want to be sued. How is this person supposed to be typing on the internet? Check the typos if they claim text-to-speech (great catch, gryftir!). JoeSydeco's suggestion of Skypeing is good, but don't accept that as the be-all/end-all proof.

Good luck with your friend; I hope you can pull them away from this jerk.
posted by easily confused at 6:47 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

My husbands cousin lost a leg in Afghanistan, took him around six weeks for the wound to fully heal, & further few months of rehab & exercises (important during healing in his case because of scar tissue issues & keeping muscles in condition, among other things) before he could be on his own. Three months to learn how to live alone as a quadruple amputee I can't even imagine, they'd barely be out of hospital. This screams scam, scam scam. Unless this person has some sort of mental body image issue, to even pretend something like this, when you see what people go through that it really happens to makes me so damn angry I can't think straight.

Add to that the costs alone of paying for such surgery in the US, hypothetically assuming they could find a doctor crazy enough to do it, because no insurance company is going to cover this, how could the faker afford to get it done & then suddenly be having money problems? If they wasted their imaginary money on fake unneeded surgery like this, the fact they are now pretend broke is their own problem not your friends.
posted by wwax at 8:28 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: For physiological reasons, never mind the ethics, I also call BS, especially given the timeline. MeMail me if your friend wants any specific questions answered; I work in a setting with many recent amputee patients.
posted by cobaltnine at 8:47 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

There was a (perhaps not coincidentally, misogynistic) SF novel on this phenomenon (scaled up to an entire dystopia) in the 1950s or '60 s. Can't recall the title, but its existence suggests strongly that the guy is fake.
posted by bad grammar at 10:10 AM on January 29, 2015

Google "Immob."

I went through a phase of reading any Sf/F, however deservedly obscure (William Henry Hodgson's The. Night Lands' too).
posted by bad grammar at 10:13 AM on January 29, 2015

gryftir ftw!

But seriously, if you can't even manage to get sterilized in the US, I can't imagine you could get legitimate medical help in mutilating your entire body.
posted by vignettist at 11:19 AM on January 29, 2015

Best answer: parent was diabetic, refused to accept treatment, ended up losing part of both feet, blamed Friend

I am seeing a connection here between the parent losing part of both feet and this claim of quadruple amputee drawing them in. Like if Friend can adequately love/help/whatever a quadruple amputee, somehow that absolves them or whatever for whatever the parent felt they were guilty of.

I would suggest Friend consider doing some volunteer work at a hospital or other setting that would have them working with amputees. It might help meet whatever emotional need this appeals to and also help them fine tune their bullshit detector for what claims are realistic and what claims are not.
posted by Michele in California at 11:21 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Other logistical issues aside (how does this person get to the bathroom if they could not get on a toilet without assistance? A urinary catheter maybe but what about bowel movements? How do they eat and drink if they cannot get food or water for themselves? Even a feeding tube has to have tube feeds put into it somehow) - a person who cannot move on their own is at high risk for pressure ulcers and must be repositioned every 2 hours. This care would require far more than what even a daily nurse visit could provide.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:23 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Instead of monetary assistance perhaps your friend should send their "friend" a copy of Geek Love.
posted by sacrifix at 2:16 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

A relative of mine lost a *finger* in an industrial accident and his recovery time was measured in (many) months - so losing all limbs entirely and being online chatting someone up mere months later sets all kinds of alarm bells off. What reason is this person offering for why they would have such a surgery undertaken?
(Geek Love immediately came to my mind, too.)
posted by AliceBlue at 5:31 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Corollary to what wwax, AliceBlue and others are saying about the amount of recovery time needed for even a minor amputation: I'll bet that, if this alleged quadruple amputee is questioned about how in the world they're managing to type on a keyboard, they'll say something like "I've got a prosthetic!" ..... which is just more BS piled on top of the BS they're already shoveling at your friend.

Healing time for any major surgery, plus physical therapy afterwards (is it at all likely that any US hospital would release even a legitimate amputation patient without therapy? I think not), plus time to fit any prosthetic devices, plus time to teach the patient how to use those prosthetics.... all this would take far more than any lousy "three months", and that's assuming you could find a doctor and hospital anywhere in the world that would even do the amputations or permit such surgery in their facilities.

In other words: your friend sounds like a lovely caring person, and they are about to be taken to the cleaners by a scammer.
posted by easily confused at 6:06 AM on January 31, 2015

Response by poster: Annnd final follow-up.

Friend concedes that the amputation thing isn't a thing, but insists that Internet Friend genuinely needs support, since they're willing to make such extreme claims.

I've suggested that local support groups and/or an independent living service provider might be helpful-- including possibly being able to assist with Internet Friend's financial issues-- and that I'm more than willing to help track something down.

I'm pretty sure that Friend isn't going to hand over any money, but if they do, that's certainly their right.

Thanks for the back up on this. It's greatly appreciated.
posted by ElaineMc at 11:44 PM on February 1, 2015 [3 favorites]

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