Selling an arm?

Date Added: 12 September 2012
Unemployment leads a man to drastic measures

Bernard Shaw, in his preface to his play, The Doctor's Dilemma, mentions in passing the story of a man who sat on a railway track and waited until a train came and amputated both his legs, hoping that he would be able to sue the railway company and get an idler's pension. His claim failed.

When I read this many years ago, I thought that this story might be apocryphal. But I recently read of a similar case in Spain (El PaĆ­s 1st Sept 2012). A man, after taking out the appropriated insurance had given himself a local anaesthetic, amputed his arm with a mechanical saw, and then claimed that he had lost it in a car accident.

What makes me sympathetic to him is that in this time of Spain's dire economic crisis, he seems to be one of many turning to insurance fraud through desparation rather than greed. He was one of family in Valencia all of whose members were unemployed, and they had all convinced him to take this drastic action.

His claim failed not only because the cut was too clean but also — and this sharpens the pathos of the story — one of his fingers was in a bad state. After performing the amputation he realised he had forgotten to remove his wedding ring, and had damaged the finger while subsequently retrieving it.