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Sunday, 6 February, 2000, 15:43 GMT
'No regrets' for healthy limb amputee

amputations graphic Dr Robert Smith performed the surgery

One of the men who had a healthy limb amputated at a Scottish hospital has revealed that he now feels like "a complete person".

Kevin Wright had his lower left leg removed by surgeon Robert Smith at Falkirk and District Royal Infirmary in September, 1997.

Both he and a German man, Hans Schaub, who had similar surgery carried out by Dr Smith, were suffering from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a psychological condition where sufferers have an unexplained desire to change or remove part of their anatomy.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, Mr Wright, from Essex, said that he realised at the age of eight that he did not want that part of his leg.

He said: "I just didn't want it. It didn't feel a part of me. I didn't understand why, but I knew I didn't want my leg."

Contemplated suicide

The amputation of his leg, which was drawn to the world's attention on Monday, has brought new-found happiness to Mr Wright.

"By taking that leg away, that surgeon has made me complete," he said.

"Of course I am not a different person now, but I might as well be. I have happiness and contentment and life is much more settled, so much easier."

The operation brought to an end 30 years of desperation for Mr Wright, during which he admits he contemplated suicide, such was the unhappiness caused by his leg.

I knew I couldn't be the only one to feel this way, but I couldn't find anything to help me try to understand it.
Kevin Wright, amputee
It also ended a lengthy period of searching for a surgeon who would perform an amputation on a healthy limb. Though an English-based surgeon had agreed to perform the operation in 1995, the hospital involved backed out three days before the surgery was due to take place, fearing adverse publicity.

Mr Wright said that during those years, he encountered very few understanding or sympathetic listeners.

He said: "I knew I couldn't be the only one to feel this way, but I couldn't find anything to help me try to understand it.

Electric shock treatment

"I encountered some very short-sighted psychiatrists who didn't know what they were talking about.

"They threatened compulsory electric shock treatment and I had some nasty experiences with heavy prescribed drugs, but none of them touched the problem.

"They were desperate to label me, but nothing fitted. Few of the medical profession knew about it, and even fewer wanted to know," he added.

Although Dr Smith will be unable to perform any similar operations at Farkirk Royal Infirmary in the future, after its trust chairman put a ban on such surgery last week, Kevin Wright is adamant that more should be done to bring the needs of BDD sufferers into the open.

Back-street operators

He emphasised the need for young sufferers in particular to know that they are not alone in their situation.

"Some people start to get better as soon as they know they aren't the only one. That in itself may be enough to help them," he said.

"I am aware of a number of people with the condition who have died as a result.

"Some simulate accidents, while others turn to back-street operators. It is truly tragic that they are ignored by the medical profession."

Dr Smith is glad Kevin Wright is now able to lead a contented life.

He said: "Kevin is now a happy man. I have no regrets about it."

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See also:
31 Jan 00 |  Scotland
Surgeon defends amputations
31 Jan 00 |  Medical notes
Body Dysmorphic Disorder Factfile
31 Jan 00 |  UK
Fit and well - yet in hospital

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