Consent, Autonomy, and the Benefits of Healthy Limb Amputation: Examining the Legality of Surgically Managing Body Integrity Identity Disorder in New Zealand

Abstract

Upon first consideration, the desire of an individual to amputate a seemingly healthy limb is a foreign, perhaps unsettling, concept. It is, however, a reality faced by those who suffer from body integrity identity disorder (BIID). In seeking treatment, these individuals request surgery that challenges both the statutory provisions that sanction surgical operations and the limits of consent as a defence in New Zealand. In doing so, questions as to the influence of public policy and the extent of personal autonomy become important. Beyond legal issues, BIID confronts dominant conceptions of bodily integrity, medical treatment, and ethical obligations. This paper seeks to identify the relevant public policy concerns raised by BIID in New Zealand and the limits of autonomy, before moving on to consider how BIID sufferers may legally seek the treatment they require and how a doctor might be protected from criminal proceedings for assault for performing this treatment. It will be argued that it is possible to legally consent to the amputation of a healthy limb as medical treatment and that public perception should not be allowed to take precedence over this right.

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Correspondence to Aimee Louise Bryant.

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Bryant, A.L. Consent, Autonomy, and the Benefits of Healthy Limb Amputation: Examining the Legality of Surgically Managing Body Integrity Identity Disorder in New Zealand. Bioethical Inquiry 8, 281–288 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-011-9310-6

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Keywords

  • Body integrity identity disorder
  • Healthy limb removal
  • New Zealand Medical Law