Southampton police recently launched a major murder investigation after human body parts were found blocking a drain in a suburban street. “A severed fingerless hand, an arm and a left foot were found in the drain,” says a police spokesperson. “Another foot and a right leg were found in a nearby waste bin.” Detectives forced entry to a nearby house, whose occupant hadn’t been seen for several days, and were horrified to discover a pair of human legs – both severed beneath the knee – in the fridge. Worse was to come, in the bedroom they found the house’s owner, thirty-eight year old Timothy Neill, reduced to a torso and a single arm. Incredibly, he was still alive, and told police that his horrific mutilations were all his own work. “He said that he had been inspired by a popular cable television series which shows viewers how to perform Do-It-Yourself medical treatments, including minor surgery,” the spokesperson revealed. “Apparently, after seeing an edition about removing warts with a pair of nail scissors, he decided to give it a go himself.” Unfortunately, Neil’s wart treatment went awry and he succeeded in removing the fingers from his left hand. “It seemed pretty useless like that, so I decided that it would be just as simple to cut it off using a similar technique to the wart removal,” Neill later recalled from his hospital bed. Armed with a junior hacksaw, a bottle of TCP and a needle and thread, he set about lopping off the offending hand and sewing up the stump. “It was surprisingly simple and, naturally, I started wondering just how difficult it would be to try something bigger – in the end the biggest problem turned out to be disposing of the redundant parts.”
Neill’s is simply one of a growing number of cases of people attempting to carry out highly dangerous surgical procedures on themselves – including appendectomies and organ transplants – for which the Home Surgery TV series is being blamed. This popular medical programme encourages viewers to treat themselves at home in order to avoid lengthy hospital waiting lists. “This bizarre new craze is getting completely out of hand,” one medical professional told The Sleaze. “In some parts of the UK its putting such a strain on emergency services’ resources that ambulance crews are refusing to attend cases of self-surgery. Consequently, many hospitals are reporting cases of severely mutilated patients wrapped in bloody sheets being dumped in casualty departments by distraught relatives. My greatest fear is that Geri Halliwell or some other celebrity will appear at an awards ceremony minus an arm or leg and start a trend for amputee chic.”
The motivation behind the self-surgery fad varies from case to case: for some it is simply a way of saving on medical bills and waiting times, whilst for others it seems to be a means of gaining attention. In a typical case, forty-three year old local government officer Ken Allen performed a series of operations on himself in the privacy of his own home after apparently becoming jealous of the attention paid to a fellow worker who had lost an arm in a car accident. “Ken came into work one Monday wearing a black eyepatch,” recalls one colleague. “He claimed that he had lost his eye in a gardening accident involving a raspberry cane. It was only later that I remembered that Ken lived in a fourth floor flat.” A few weeks later, after the stir caused by the eyepatch had died down, Allen arrived at work minus three fingers – the result of a kitchen mishap with a blender, or so he claimed – once more he was the centre of attention for a few weeks. “About a month after that, he just stopped coming into work altogether. We later learned that he had been rushed to hospital after unsuccessfully attempting to amputate his right leg with a craft knife,” says another former colleague, who is convinced that watching Home Surgery provided Allen with the information he needed to carry out these procedures. “The eye incident followed an edition on surgical techniques to correct defective vision, whilst he lost his fingers after they showed an item about polar explorers removing frost-bitten fingers with pen knives.”
Another fan of the series, Sidney Nugent of Bracknell, was inspired to try and operate on his own hernia. With the aid of mirrors and a sharp knife he was able to successfully open up his own abdominal cavity whilst lying on his kitchen table. Unfortunately, he was distracted by his phone ringing. Leaping to his feet to answer it, his intestines spilled out of his still open abdomen and became entangled around his ankles, resulting in him tripping and plunging head first down a flight of stairs, with fatal consequences. Grieving relatives of Stanley Connor, who died from a post-operative infection after he attempted to remove his own inflamed gall bladder with a fish knife, also blame the TV series for the demise of the Stockport pensioner. “He’d always been terrified of hospitals, and became obsessed with the idea of self-surgery as an alternative after watching Home Surgery,” claims his brother. “The irony is that the surgical procedure he carried out was perfect – the pathologist who performed the post-mortem said that if he hadn’t known better, he’d have thought the operation was a professional job – Stan had even managed to stitch up the incision with a needle and thread. The problem was that he forgot to sterilise his instruments.”
Home Surgery‘s makers have vigourously defended it against these allegations – pointing out that had Mr Connor bothered obtaining the information pack accompanying the series, he would have received full instructions on proper sterilisation techniques for surgical instruments. “There is no way we can be held responsible,” says Dr Vernon Gibson, the programme’s presenter and a major shareholder in a company producing prosthetic limbs and surgical implements. “People were operating on themselves long before our programme began broadcasting.”
Indeed, self surgery is a well established practice – even in the medical profession. Only last year one British GP performed a vasectomy on himself, whilst heart transplant pioneer Christian Barnard tragically died while performing open heart surgery on himself when a replacement valve slipped from between his bloody fingers and fell out of his reach. “By showing people how to treat themselves in their own homes, we are actually performing a public service,” Gibson believes. “These people – who cannot afford private health care – would otherwise put an even greater strain on our already over stretched health services.” Many in the medical profession disagree. “Thanks to those irresponsible bastards, we’re having to divert millions of pounds worth of scarce resources into cleaning up the mess they’ve created,” says one doctor. The main beneficiaries of the self-urgery craze seem to be hardware and DIY stores, which have reported record sales of axes, saws, craft knives and cleavers.