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Surgery on yourself

Successful so far: amputation, circumcision, appendectomy, heart catheterization

There are 14 documented cases of self surgery in the last 150 years.  - Image by Rick Geary
There are 14 documented cases of self surgery in the last 150 years.

Hi, Matt: From time to time you hear about people amputating their own leg or arm in an emergency. That makes me wonder, if somebody with no training can cut off a limb and survive, has any surgeon ever performed surgery on himself? — Rhonda R., San Diego

Sez the American Medical Association, there are 14 documented cases in the last 150 years. Emergency appendectomies seem the most popular do-it-yourself project. According to one less well documented tale, a professional cutter took out his own appendix while stuck in a Beirut traffic jam on the way to the hospital. The champion, though, is the fully authentic story of the Pennsylvania sawbones who amputated his own finger, performed his own appendectomy (in an operating room, attended by nurses), and then, ten years later, at age 70, repaired his own inguinal hernia. The German physician who performed the first-ever heart catheterization (on himself, running a tube through a vein in his arm into a chamber of his heart) lived to tell about it and to collect a Nobel Prize for his trouble.

We civilians have also cut things out and off with varying degrees of success. One man circumcised himself at age 30. A woman, suffering years of pain and disease she blamed on silicone breast implants, removed them herself with the aid of a razor blade and some Valium when her insurance company refused her surgery. And just a few months ago, a woman tried to remove the painful calluses from her feet with a shotgun. She later admitted the idea came to her after drinking a quart of vodka and lots of beer.

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There are 14 documented cases of self surgery in the last 150 years.  - Image by Rick Geary
There are 14 documented cases of self surgery in the last 150 years.

Hi, Matt: From time to time you hear about people amputating their own leg or arm in an emergency. That makes me wonder, if somebody with no training can cut off a limb and survive, has any surgeon ever performed surgery on himself? — Rhonda R., San Diego

Sez the American Medical Association, there are 14 documented cases in the last 150 years. Emergency appendectomies seem the most popular do-it-yourself project. According to one less well documented tale, a professional cutter took out his own appendix while stuck in a Beirut traffic jam on the way to the hospital. The champion, though, is the fully authentic story of the Pennsylvania sawbones who amputated his own finger, performed his own appendectomy (in an operating room, attended by nurses), and then, ten years later, at age 70, repaired his own inguinal hernia. The German physician who performed the first-ever heart catheterization (on himself, running a tube through a vein in his arm into a chamber of his heart) lived to tell about it and to collect a Nobel Prize for his trouble.

We civilians have also cut things out and off with varying degrees of success. One man circumcised himself at age 30. A woman, suffering years of pain and disease she blamed on silicone breast implants, removed them herself with the aid of a razor blade and some Valium when her insurance company refused her surgery. And just a few months ago, a woman tried to remove the painful calluses from her feet with a shotgun. She later admitted the idea came to her after drinking a quart of vodka and lots of beer.

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“Anytime you have a pool, or a bathtub, or a toilet, or a bucket, a child can drown.”
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