Will Hospitals Give Back an Amputated Limb If You Ask For It?


It’s standard procedure in most hospitals
to incinerate any limbs, organs or tissue they remove from a non-organ donor patient. However, just because this is the way things
are normally done, it’s not necessarily the way it has to be done. For example, while there almost universally
doesn’t seem to be any laws saying you have rights to an amputated limb after a doctor
removes it, in many cases you can ask for anything cut off of or removed from your body
back from the hospital and they’ll (usually) say yes if pressed on the matter. Even where laws exist, they tend to be less
about how to handle such tissue and more about getting around potential lawsuits. For example, in California there is a law
stating that patients can’t sue after the fact for the return of tissue used in medical
research or for a share of the profits if the tissue removed leads to a medical breakthrough. (See Bonus Fact below on the fascinating case
of John Moore which spurred this California Supreme Court ruling.) That said, in part because of Moore’s case,
prior to any surgery hospital representatives will invariably ask patients to sign a form
that “cedes ownership of their surgical leavings”, usually to the pathology lab
for use in medical research or study. However, as a patient, you’re entirely within
your rights to not sign such a form and request ownership of any piece of your body removed
during surgery. But, as previously alluded to, hospitals and
doctors won’t always make this easy for you and will often tell you that this isn’t
possible owing to the removed bits being a biohazard. While this sounds like a reasonable explanation,
in truth this is usually just something hospital representative say when a hospital has a policy
against returning removed bits, generally from wanting to avoid jumping through the
additional effort involved in returning a body part. As lawyer and author of The Law of Human Remains,
Tanya Mash, notes, “When they don’t want to do something, they’ll tell people it’s
illegal. That doesn’t mean it’s illegal. A lot of people just cave when they’re told
it’s not permitted.” Or, as PBS succinctly states, unless a piece
of removed tissue contains a communicable disease or a virus, “keeping your own body
part isn’t inherently anymore dangerous than keeping a steak”. And even if you have a communicable disease,
the common process of preserving the tissue or limb (submersed in a solution of water
and formaldehyde) will usually kill off any such diseases anyway outside of some known
exceptions, making the often claimed “biohazard” excuse for not returning your body part generally
bogus. For example, consider the case of Kristi Loyall
who, upon being told that she needed to have a foot amputated owing to cancer, asked the
hospital for it back only to be stonewalled by doctors who told her that this wasn’t
possible. Nevertheless, she insisted and, after hounding
the hospital about the issue for several weeks, they agreed to return it. It’s also noteworthy here that while they
initially said it wasn’t possible, the hospital actually had a liability release form on file
specifically for use when returning removed body parts. After signing the form and getting her foot
and part of her leg back, Loyall paid $650 to a private company to skeletonise it. Hilariously, she maintains an Instagram account,
onefootwanderer, where she takes various photos with said foot, such as this glorious shot
of her using her skeletonised foot as a golf club. When asked if she had any advice for people
who similarly wanted to keep an amputated limb, Loyall explained that it was important
to be persistent and “just keep reminding everyone that you are getting it back”. As for exactly what condition you’ll get
your limb, organ or tissue back in, this will usually depend on the tests the pathologist
conducts on it and the manner in which it is removed. Things like kidneys stones, for example, will
normally be destroyed by the tests performed on them after the fact, if not the method
used to remove them in the first place. Because of this, while you can theoretically
ask for anything removed from your body back, occasionally this really won’t be possible. But where possible and if you insist, the
general process is that the organ, tissue or limb will be sent off to a pathology lab,
among other things to ensure it’s pathogen free. It will also be preserved in some way (usually,
as mentioned, in a solution including formaldehyde) and you will have to sign a liability release
form before it will be returned. Once back in your possession, in most regions,
you’re free to do with it as you please. One man, Leo Bonten, even created a rather
fetching, if a little creepy, lamp out of his leg. If you happen to be interested in selling
your former body part, as we mentioned in our article concerning how one goes about
donating your body to science and the fascinating things that may be done to it after, with
a few exceptions, this is entirely within your rights as there aren’t really much
in the way of regulations in the United States and many other countries about the ownership
or sale of human remains. The exception to this in the U.S. is primarily
regarding the sale or ownership of Native American remains, which are protected by The
Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. (Although a few states, like Louisiana, Georgia,
and Missouri, do have some laws pertaining to restricting selling body parts.) Over in the United Kingdom, things are only
slightly different with the decision of what to do with amputated limbs and removed tissue
being left to the discretion of hospital trusts and, in some cases, the individual surgeon
performing the amputation itself. However, as long as a patient makes their
wishes clear and signs the necessary forms, in most cases one shouldn’t have significant
issue getting the bit(s) of yourself back. Also, as in the United States, tests need
to be performed to ensure the tissue or limb doesn’t pose a public health risk and it
will need to be properly preserved before being returned. One thing that is different in the UK is that,
due to a quirk of British law, one of the few things a patient can’t do with an amputated
limb once they get it back is have it cremated at a licensed crematorium. This is primarily because a death certificate
is required by law for someone at a crematorium to cremate human remains, as noted in a paper
published in the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal). In the paper, Dr. Simon Marlow also muses
over the fact that although you can’t legally have a crematorium cremate your limb after
its amputated, you could ask for it back and burn it yourself. And, of course, if the limb is not going to
be used for medical research, hospitals themselves almost universally will incinerate the limb
anyway, which is all perfectly legal. It’s just the crematoriums that can’t
do it. But to sum up, it would seem in most regions
of the world, as long as the bits of you removed don’t pose a significant health risk to
the general public, while many a doctor or hospital (particularly research hospitals)
may resist if you ask for a body part back, if you’re insistent enough, you’ll likely
have good luck in having it returned. And once you have it back, for the most part
you are free to do with it as you please. Obviously losing a limb is nearly always less
than ideal (unless, I suppose, you have Body Integrity Identity Disorder), but for those
who persist on finding the positive in any situation, if the aforementioned Kristi Loyall
is any indication, there are a lot of hilarious things you
can do with your own severed limb.

100 thoughts on “Will Hospitals Give Back an Amputated Limb If You Ask For It?

  1. Ready to learn more fun medical facts? Then check out this video and find out What Happens When You Donate Your Body to Science and How Do You Do This?:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgDxWd6aOiA

  2. I recently got my appendix removed in 2010 and one of the last things I remembered before succumbing to anesthesia was my father asking if we could keep my appendix as a souvenir, and the surgeon looking at him saying that the hospital doesn’t do that. I personally would have said something if I wasn’t falling asleep, because it was my first surgery of my life and I wanted the souvenir.

  3. Considering the system has been a total ass to me. I'd get it back just to have it destroyed. Screw them making a profit off my bits.

  4. Well, they threw my finger away in Germany. Asked if I could keep it. Said it had serious Emporkömmling and traditional value to my religion and family ( all a lie, just wanted to have it tbh ). But they refused immediately, saying it was a “biohazard”. Like bro, I get you have to follow procedure and all, but I’m really angry, and kinda would feel better knowing that even if it’s not on me, I still have my finger somewhere in my possession. Makes me really sad actually. Didnt mean to go emotional in the comments but damn. I miss my fingle.

  5. In the Civil War General Dan Sickles had his leg amputated and carried it around in it's own coffin as well as the cannon ball that took it off.

  6. Had my finger cut off any i begged them 4 it back but they said no strate out i was pissed i wanted to turn it in to a ticket scratcer to mess with my friends im in Maine USA

  7. 🙂 🙂 not a limb but when I had my appendix removed in 1978 the surgeon brought it to me in the recovery room in a little glass jar

  8. I would take my hand, and put it over my doorway giving the one finger solute welcoming out anyone who enters.

  9. After watching this, I've decided that, if I should ever lose a limb, I'm getting it back.
    In the case of a leg or foot, I want the skeletonized bones encased in clear resin and attached to the bottom of my prosthetic.
    A hand could be made into a back-scratcher, or the ultimate Doctor Who cosplay prop.

  10. Soooo when I got my my wisdom teeth taken out apparently I put up a big stink about wanting them back when I was still drugged up. It was really embarrassing when I went back for the check-in and an assistant came into the waiting room with a packet of my teeth saying “we got your teeth back for you. So sorry about the misunderstanding!”

  11. So, with a little good ol' DIWhy spirit, I could get a limb amputated, and replace it with a prosthetic made of the old limb. Halloween would sure be a hoot.

  12. If I ever need an amputation I’ll be taking it home and put it in my room with my pets ashes (I have a bit of a dark sense of humour) give me a glass jar of formaldehyde or something- don’t give it back? I’ll sue you! 😅😅

  13. well, in my vet clinic we take limbs and testes and just toss them in the surgery trash bin (after i wave the leg around like a drum stick..)

  14. They are phasing out formaldehyde because it's such a nasty chemical. These days they use other less harmful chemicals.

  15. Is Simon aware he speaks in “Run-on sentence?” I seriously cannot watch these videos because of how annoyingly long it seems!

  16. Theyre less likely to return tumors due to the fact that they heavily study tumors. My dad had a kidney tumor removed and he really wanted it back but they said that his specific tumors acted unusually so it had to be studied

  17. wouldnt that last one be considered some sort of copyright infringement (since DNA is technically data and data is intellectual property)

  18. I had a finger removed and I asked for it back in the morning and they said no we put it in the incinerator, so I went outside and watched the smoke

  19. Thank you for this. I intend to get an orchiectomy in the future and when we got engaged 10+ years ago, I promised my now wife my balls. I intend to make good on my promise since now that's going to end up happening.

  20. I have MBC, I JOKINGLY asked and was told, “Absolutely not! Everything that’s
    removed, goes to the Lab.” Btw, It happened in NYC.

  21. Long story short, yes, just read the small print otherwise you will inadvertently sign a form saying you can’t ask for it.

  22. That kind of makes me mad. I get them not wanting to create a litigation lottery, but they should just tell people when they're using their tissues for research, then at least they can ask for some kind of compensation or at least have some of their medical bills forgiven. I think most people would be happy to help society in that way, but your body does belong to you. It's theft to take it and use it without your knowledge

  23. Should have sued for medical malpractice. Lying to him and tricking him into unnessisary removal of blood and marrow is really unethical.

  24. Wondered the same thing….can you keep your touncles? Cannibal would like to keep their own and deep fry them.

  25. I had my gall bladder removed like 5 years ago now. I remember when I cane to after surgery the doctor came in and asked me if I wanted to keep it. This was in Texas. He said its medical waste they aren't allowed to dispose of it or anything without asking.

  26. Me: Hey mum where are my balls? all my other friends have 2 balls hanging from their crouch. It looks fun to play with!

    Mom: Oh here ya go hands jar with a preserved dick in it

  27. After I had my tooth pulled, the doctor gave it to me. Now I am the proud owner of one tooth with a big hole in it. Aint that something 😉

  28. “Oh you paid for exclusive access to my body and cells? Cool cool. Pay me or you ain’t ever getting shit again!”

  29. I kept my dogs testicles after they were castrated. The vets put them in formaldehyde and so they’re now in little pots on my shelf as a ‘talking point’. People often ask about the pots labelled as Mountain Oysters 😆
    I’ve also kept removed wisdom teeth 🦷 and the stitches which were put in my perineum after my second childbirth.
    When I have my ovarian cysts removed, I am going to ask if I can keep whatever I can of them (although I believe they’ll be deflated before removal) , I’m fascinated by my body.

  30. i'm pissed! I begged to get my spleen and was told it was not possible b/c they had to run so many tests. I'm still trying to just get the pictures of it; and even That's been a pain in the ass. And just two months ago, my boyfriend had to get all his teeth pulled and they wouldn't return those either. I knew that was bull b/c other dentists and my cat's vet have returned other teeth to me. I wanted my boyfriend's to make a cool necklace. I should sue! i won't, but damn i should.

  31. I had my right eye cut out about ten years ago and they wouldn't let me keep it. Really pissed me off.

  32. I should have asked for the placenta after birthing my child! Dry it up and put it in a display box in the living room… Occasionally I could grind tiny pieces with some yogurt and oatmeal for a nutritious face mask…
    Heck, the umbilical cord too, use it when my kid disobeys!
    Oh, yes, I want the water that broke as well. I'll figure a need for that too.

  33. Yes they will give the limbs back. Some religions require the limbs for a complete burial or death ceremony.

  34. In my stupid town, I informed the hospital I was Hindu, and would need my parts back BEFORE my surgery,, and they thought I was joking !.(I'm an adult, with my religious preference clearly stated in all paperwork ) I woke up and the 1st thing i asked for was my part,,, and,,,, shocked as shit, they sent the pathologist to my bedside to say how sorry he was, but it had been thrown away.( because…joking right?) I told him him to get his butt back to the lab and GET IT OUT OF THE BIO HAZARD garbage bag and give it back RIGHT NOW…I got back a few slides…I was the only emergency surgery that day,,in a SMALL rural hospital. So it wasn't like there were any other things in that bag 🙁

  35. I wasn't even asked what they should do with my leg. There was probably no good part left, but if there had been something good i maybe would have eaten some of it xD

  36. If i ever get my other leg amputated i think i want at least the bones, cast them in something clear and make my prosthetic from it xD

  37. I've actually been through this several times. When I had my impacted wisdom tooth extracted I asked for the dentist to give it to me after and he said he couldn't, citing the whole bio-hazard thing because surely the … disease on the tooth that was in my mouth could become sentient and kill me and everyone in my home. Years later when I had the non-impacted wisdom teeth pulled I asked for them back and they were hesitant but I was persistent and they just gave me my teeth in a little medical pouch afterward. I still keep them around in an empty pill bottle on my desk-"Look, those came out of me!".

    Last story, I have/had severe scoliosis which eventually led to me having an 8-hour spinal de-twisting and fusion surgery in my 20s (it "made" me 2-3-inches taller). The surgeon was reluctant at first but I kept pressing him to take a picture of my the inside of my back while he was in here so I could post it on Facebook. Ultimately the picture of my exposed spine was too gross for me to look at more than once but I did post the x-rays. Glad to see I'm not the only person who posts morbid medical imagery on social media! The moral of the story, keep asking your doctor for stuff and eventually they give in 🙂

  38. John Wood and Shannon Whistnant are from NORTH Carolina. Unfortunately I am from the same area of N.C. that they live in. This case was super weird and I believe they were working together to be famous because Shannon has always had the dream of becoming famous eventhough he is kinda old and a little "simple" in the head. I am a nurse and one day Shannon came to the hospital I worked at to visit someone, and he was wearing a T-Shirt that said "I am the foot guy" and he had a picture of an amputated foot on the shirt. Judge Mathis was "flabbergasted" at the case. His reaction to the two idiots fighting over a foot was pretty funny.

  39. If i ever get a limb taken off i'm getting a camera and half burying it in public places for people to find and freak out.

  40. I saw a man who’d made a very stylish cane topped with the upper part of his own femur when his leg had to be amputated 👍🏻

  41. If I ever lose a limb, I'm freezing that shit. Maybe not right now, but at some moment it maybe be useful for a prosthetic, even if it's just to provide a blueprint.

  42. I'm thinking about the episode of The Office (American, I feel I should specify since the guy in this video is British) where Dwight is in Florida, and he has to go to the emergency room for an appendectomy and he keeps his appendix as a souvenir.

  43. If you have to have a total hysterectomy at a fairly young age, I wonder if they can donate your eggs to infertile women. Surely not, right?

  44. Could I get a limb back and then cook and eat it? Could I give it to other knowing participants and tell them to "eat me"?

  45. Made him fly down all the time without giving him a penny, meanwhile the doctor got rich off of him. Typical.

  46. I might get scolded for this, but why do we incinerate human remains? We take from nature and don't give. (Sorry if I sound like a hippie)

  47. No I lost my finger when I was 12 I asked if I could keep it and they told me it was illegal to own a body part

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