Korrektiv Thought Experiment (KTE) numero tres

Your sixteen year-old son gets religion in an extreme fashion and takes literally Jesus’ injunction to “cut off your right hand if it offends you.” Or perhaps he suffers from apotemnophilia, a psychiatric disorder characterized by the desire to have one’s healthy limbs amputated. Or perhaps it’s a combination of the two. At any rate, one Saturday afternoon you see your son go out the back door and into the shed, reappearing a moment later with an axe. You go outside to see what he’s up to, only to find him hacking at his wrist with the axe. What should you do?

(a) It’s his body, let him cut off his hand if that’s what he wants to do.

(b) Intervene, grab the axe from him, get him to the emergency room, and then get him some good counseling.

(c) Sit down with him and his doctor and his clergy and discuss the matter. Cutting off a hand is a moral decision and not something anyone should take lightly. If he still wishes to remove the hand, make sure it’s done by a trained surgeon in a hospital or clinic where he can receive appropriate care. Self-amputation should be safe, legal and rare.


  1. It’s a choice, not a hand.

  2. Matthew Lickona says

    The problem is, he has two hands, and the left can probably offend almost as well as the right. But once he’s cut off one hand, he won’t be able to hold the axe to cut off the other. Better to have him read the whole Gospel passage and see the wisdom in plucking out his eye[s]. After which, sadly, he won’t be able to read any more Gospel passages. Well, except in Braille. And if he cuts off his hands, not even then. But who reads any more?

  3. (b)

  4. I think I would seek help from any and all sources that would convince my son that what he felt and thought was not in line with God’s will. God wants us to live life abundantly, not as cripples.

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