Punitive Limb Amputation
Limb amputation has been carried out through the ages as a punitive method in various parts of the world. This article highlights the historical and societal background associated with the use of punitive limb amputation. We performed an extensive electronic search of the pertinent literature augmented with a hand-search of additional sources. Evidence for punitive amputation is available as early as the court of the Babylonian Code of King Hammurabi (circa 1750 Before the Common Era [BCE]), which imposed punitive limb amputations on slaves who used force against free citizens. Other reports provided evidence that punitive amputation was used as early as the 4th century BCE in ancient Peru. Limb amputation restored law and order during the Roman and Byzantine periods. Amputation as a punitive instrument prevailed in Europe throughout the 17th century. During the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement in Europe approached criminal law from a humanistic perspective, incorporated it into societal practice, and promoted its preventive dimensions. Punitive limb amputation still exists in several Arab and African countries. Amputation as a punitive or correctional method has its roots in old civilizations. It has been used through the ages in various parts of the world. While it has been abandoned in modern western societies, punitive amputation is still used in several third-world countries.