Can a Surgeon Operate on Himself?

There are at least five recorded cases of self-operation in modern history. In perhaps the most famous, Soviet surgeon Leonid Rogozov removed his own appendix without trained assistance or hospital equipment on a newly established base in Antarctica. He worked mostly by touch, and noted afterward that his appendix was extremely inflamed and would have burst within 24 hours if he hadn't removed it. He completely recovered within two weeks, and he lived another 40 years.

More about self-surgery:

  • The majority of self-surgeries fail badly, particularly those done by amateurs. One notable amateur self-surgery that was a success was that of Boston Corbett, the soldier who shot presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth. Corbett castrated himself with a pair of scissors as a young man to avoid temptation, then reportedly ate a meal and went to a prayer meeting before seeking treatment.

  • The first recorded abdominal self-surgery was performed by Dr. Evan O'Neill Kane, who removed his own appendix with local anesthesia to see if local anesthesia, a relatively new invention at the time, was actually tolerable for patients. Incidentally, Kane also often tattooed his surgical patients with his initial, "K," in Morse code.

  • Dr. Jerri Nielsen also famously diagnosed and treated herself for breast cancer while living in the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station. Though she was able to teleconference with other doctors for advice, she performed the diagnostic biopsy herself, and she self-administered chemotherapy.

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