An Australian father-of-three who had "hated" his right leg for 25 years told how he plunged it in a bucket of dry ice for six hours so surgeons at a Sydney hospital had no choice but to amputate below the knee.
"I'm tired of lying all the time and I just want people to know I'm not crazy," David Openshaw, 29, told Channel Seven in his first television interview since losing his leg last year.
Openshaw said he has a rare neurological condition called body integrity identity disorder (BIID), which sufferers claim is a medical condition characterized by an overwhelming desire to lose a limb or become a paraplegic.
Other BIID sufferers have used the dry ice technique to bring on a hospital amputation. An unknown number mutilate themselves or find backstreet surgeons willing to do the job for them. Though there are thousands of people around the world like Openshaw who claim to have BIID, many psychologists refuse to recognise it as a genuine identity trait. There is only one case of a doctor agreeing to cut off the limb of a BIID sufferer.
In 2000 Scottish surgeon Robert Smith performed several amputations at the Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary before he was ordered to stop. He argued that his patients would have taken their own lives unless he met their demands for an amputation.
"I had all these years of constantly having mind games with myself and then this one day, out of the blue, it's no longer there," Openshaw said in the television interview. "It took quite a little bit to get used to."
Openshaw, who gets about on crutches, admitted to "very conflicting" feelings about his right leg from the age of four. Learning of the supposed BIID syndrome, he said, was "absolute bliss."
Like others who have effectively amputated their own limbs, Openshaw was able to blunt criticism by declaring he lost his leg in an accident. He insisted it was only his right leg that troubled him and that he had no desire to lose other limbs. He has no regrets about being on crutches.
No other treatment
A campaigner for the recognition of BIID as a medical condition is Sean O'Connor, a US citizen who voluntarily uses a wheelchair and has contemplated action that would put him in one permanently. "Nothing touches it, other than surgery," O'Connor told international news magazine Newsweek last month. "Psychotherapy doesn't work. Psychiatry doesn't work. Medication doesn't work."
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