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Wednesday, 23 October, 2002, 00:39 GMT 01:39 UK
'I cut off my arm to survive'
Hand and knife
Doug used a knife to cut off his own arm
A lobster fisherman from Maine in the US has told a BBC documentary on human instincts of the extraordinary lengths he went to in order to preserve his own life:

Doug Goodale cut off his own arm at the elbow in order to survive an accident at sea.

He had become caught in a winch hauling lobster pots up from the sea floor, and could not free himself.

The power of the winch left him hanging over the side of the boat, unable to either free himself or clamber back aboard.

'I did it for my children'

As the boat was rocked by stormy weather, he believes it was only a last, desperate instinct for self-preservation that kicked in to save him.

He said: "Nobody near you, no help, no radio, nobody to turn the radio off - that's it - you're going to die.

Baby's bitter taste reaction
One instinctively knows when something is nasty...
Somehow he managed to haul himself back onto the deck, dislocating his shoulder in the process.

His motivation was the image of his daughters appearing to him.

"I don't know how to explain it to people, but I swear, climbing onto the boat were my two girls."

However, he was still trapped in the winch, bleeding heavily, and with no way of getting free, his only option was to pick up a knife and cut through his right arm.

He then managed to pilot his boat back into harbour to get medical help.

He said: "When my six-year-old tells me: 'It doesn't matter that you've only got one arm - you're here'.

"Now if you heard that from your kids, wouldn't you take a knife and do the same?"

Human instinct helps us avoid infection
Human instinct helps us avoid infection
Survival instincts are the theme of the first in a series of BBC documentaries starring Professor Robert Winston.

These are abilities and reactions which are imprinted in us by millions of years of evolution.

Even babies have the instinctive ability to spit out bitter-tasting food - which may save them from eating poisonous food.

And modern phobias, say scientists, are simply left-overs from times when spiders and snakes represented a genuine threat to life.

From the first years of life, humans develop a finely-tuned sense of "disgust" which can protect them from items which might spread disease.

Adrenaline rush

And the classic "fight or flight" response still works, with the first indication of a threat launching swift brain activity to flood the body with adrenaline, readying it for action.

Human instincts have been honed over 4.5 million years, and account for the natural human preference for sweet or fatty foods.

This harks back, say experts, to millennia in which such food was scarce - humans who craved it tended to thrive better than those who did not.

It is only in the past 100 years that food has become plentiful in any part of the world.

Human Instinct will be broadcast on BBC One at 2100BST on Wednesday 23 October.

See also:

15 Oct 02 | Health
18 Jan 00 | Health
02 Oct 02 | Health
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