Nick O’Halloran suffering Body Integrity Identity Disorder: A question of dealing with mental illness vs amputating his right leg?
UK man, Nick O’Halloran, 29, has caused consternation with his unrelenting bid to have his perfectly healthy leg amputated. Amputated because in Nick’s mind his leg doesn’t recognize his his leg as his own.
Hobbling around with crutches, his right leg heavily bandaged to the knee, strapped behind him, O’Halloran tells anyone who will listen that his right leg is alien and foreign and that he is desperate to have it finally amputated.
According to a report via the dailymail, O’Halloran feels that his leg from three inches below his right hip doesn’t belong to him. The result of a rare neurological condition which makes sufferers unable to recognize parts of their own body.
Suffering from a syndrome known as Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID), inflected individuals are prone to wanting to become paraplegic or blind. A state of mind drawn by one’s sense of feeling deficient or not measuring up to a perfect ideal.
Notes a website that specializes in BIID: ‘Many psychologists and neurologists have ventured theories into what causes this type of thought. The common leading idea is that Body Integrity Identity Disorder, or BIID, occurs when the brain is not able to provide an accurate plan of the body. In this case, the brain sees the offending limb as being foreign and not actually a part of the person, thus the desire to have it removed.
Some medical experts have also come up with theories that explain a more psychological source of the issues. One of these theories is that a a person with BIID may have seen an amputee at an earlier age and this image has replaced their own thoughts about what constitutes the ideal person. Therefore, to become a better person, they feel that a certain limb or appendage will have to be amputated.’
According to the former special needs teacher, so pungent is the pain and discomfort he is forced to wear the bandages, which in effect intensify the appearance of the man having already had his leg amputated.
Providing the patient has undergone rigorous testing, including psychological tests, it is legal for surgeons to remove healthy limbs.
But following an outcry in 2000 after two amputations were carried out at Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary, NHS surgeons in Scotland have stopped performing the procedure.
In turn, O’Halloran has resorted to injecting his leg with medical grade alcohol in the hope of damaging it so badly that that doctors who refuse to remove a healthy leg will reconsider.
So desperate is Nick that he even lost £20,000 to an online scammer known as a ‘gatekeeper’, people who claim they can introduce them to surgeons willing to amputate.
Told the man, ‘I couldn’t report it to the police. How do you explain it?’.
Explaining how extreme his desire to remove his leg has become, Nick responds, ‘I thought about putting the leg on a train track. The desperation is that extreme.’
Adding: ‘I remember vividly around the age of ten feeling like something wasn’t right. I had this disgust toward my right leg. It was only when I was older and began studying psychology at university that I realized it had a name.
‘It just feels like it shouldn’t be there.’
Reiterates the resolute man: ‘I want it to be amputated. That’s my end goal. It is really the only way that I can see a future where I am happy and comfortable with myself.’
So pernicious has O’Halloran’s obsession with his leg become that he had to quit his job last year. Upon confiding to his GP he was put on medication for obsessive compulsive disorder and depression.
Last May, he went to Haymarket Station in Edinburgh, intending to throw himself under a train but was saved by staff.
Explains Dr Anna Sedda, assistant professor in psychology at Heriot Watt University, an expert on BIID, ‘he has a perfectly normal response to disgust’.
Adding, ‘but there is a specific difference when it comes to the amputation of body parts.’
Reiterated the afflicted O’Halloran: ‘The NHS only treats BIID as a mental health issue. I don’t believe for a second that I have OCD. Hospital priority is always to restore and recover, so there’s no way they’d remove a healthy limb.
‘If they would just give me the amputation, I’d be happier and healthier and cost the NHS less in the long run.’
Which is to wonder wouldn’t the NHS and Nick O’Halloran both be better off if they got to the bottom of sufferer’s mental anguish and helped sufferers accept their state of being? Of is that like forbidding someone born in a man or woman’s body wishing to cross over to the other ‘right’ sex that they are too ill and shouldn’t be allowed to make the switch, even if it is their body?