Medicine | Traumatic physical loss aside, there are many advantages to having your leg amputated, Paul Hochman writes in Fast Company. Ask Hugh Herr, double amputee and director of a “biomechatronics” group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He says he feels sorry for the able-bodied: “It’s actually unfair. As tech advancements in prosthetics come along, amputees can exploit those improvements. They can get upgrades. A person with a natural body can’t.”
That prompts envious exclamations from non-amputees, the article reports, like: “Hey! I want a robot hand.” Amputees, meanwhile, regularly pay out-of-pocket to remove healthy tissue to make room for more powerful technology (and, in the case of double leg amputees, maybe gain a few inches of height in the bargain). “People will get a second amputation — move their amputation up their leg — to get the prosthetic equivalent of a hotter car,” says a prosthetic company representative.
The new prosthetics are expensive, with sales set to boom from a rise in diabetes-related amputations. (Despite the media attention they get, injured war veterans are a tiny segment of the market.) And though the article doesn’t get into it, the cost raises anew the question of the have-nots of technological advance — the amputee victims of the Haitian earthquake, for example.