Hand Transplants and Bodily Integrity

Jenny Slatman*, Guy Widdershoven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

22 Citations (Web of Science)


In this article, we present an analysis of bodily integrity in hand transplants from a phenomenological narrative perspective, while drawing on two contrasting case stories. We consider bodily integrity as the subjective bodily experience of wholeness which, instead of referring to actual bodily intactness, involves a positive identification with one's physical body. Bodily mutilations, such as the loss of a hand, may severely affect one's bodily integrity. A possible restoration of one's experience of wholeness requires a process of re-identification. Medical interventions, such as a hand transplant, may improve the possibility of a successful re-identification. However, since the experience of wholeness does not refer simply to physical intactness or impairment, the choice for medical intervention should not be based merely upon the degree of physical mutilation. It should also be based upon the degree to which a person fails in re-identifying with his or her mutilated body. We argue that a normalizing operation is only ethically justifiable if the intervention enables the person to be the body he or she has.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-92
JournalBody & Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2010


  • bodily integrity
  • hand transplant
  • identity
  • narrativity
  • phenomenology

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