The December issue of The Atlantic Monthly reports a disturbing new group of body-modification aficionados, whose need for artistic self-enhancement teeters on insanity. While many pathetic hipsters and hotties toy with the body art sound barrier (implants, branding, tattoos, piercing, and genital mutilation), apotemnophiliacs all over the world are travelling at the speed of light with their designs.

The author of the report, Carl Elliott says the apotemnophiliacs' objectives are to become amputees. If they have to, they'll do the work themselves.

Apotemnophilia isn't a sexual fetish, where one lusts after amputees. Factually, the term, apotemnophilia isn't the perfect title for these amputee wannabes (the suffix philia suggests sexual attraction--see pedophilia), but scientists find it difficult to classify these individuals. Elliott says they are less concerned with sexuality than identity, and fall into dysmorphic categories, such as victims of anorexia nervosa, who starve themselves, yet are convinced they're fat. One psychiatrist calls it Amputee Identity Disorder.

Scottish surgeon Robert Smith amputated the legs of two healthy patients, but was stopped just prior to his third surgery by his own hospital. The patients were perfectly healthy. They just wanted their legs cut off and Smith obliged, saying they are "very happy with the results." Unfortunately, for the majority of apotemnophiliacs, few doctors condone the operations, and many are forced to perform the amputations themselves.

Elliott details numerous examples: a 79-year-old man who paid $10,000 for a black market double-amputation in Mexico (he died), a Milwaukee man who cut off his own arm and threatened to cut it off again if it was reattached. Another calmly told Elliott he researched anesthesia and wound control before he placed his leg in the jaws of a log cutter and yanked the handle.

A 40-year-old woman, who told Elliott of her failed attempts to "kill" her legs with tourniquets and ice packs, said she would resort to laying on railroad tracks or shooting off her legs with a shotgun. "I will never feel truly whole with legs."

According to Elliott, apotemnophilia could be contagious. Though most people think cutting off their legs sounds horrible, a combination of social suggestion (see It Sure Is a Scientific World!), conceptual imagery, and psychiatric treatment support groups makes the act more palatable, and could potentially contribute to an epidemic of apotemnophilia.

Personally, I don't think he has a leg to stand on.