Created By: johnnye on November 12, 2011 Last Edited By: morenohijazo on December 15, 2012
Troped

Self-Surgery

There\'s a doctor in the house... unfortunately, it\'s you

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Needs a Better Title (Heal Thyself is, tragically, already taken); Do We Have This One?? Will improve/expand the description as we go; suggestions welcome.

The Medic is injured, and he's the only one qualified to fix himself up. Or, even worse, someone entirely untrained is forced to operate on themselves because they can't go to hospital for some reason.

May involve We Have to Get the Bullet Out, but Suck Out the Poison will be pretty tricky if it's anywhere above the knee/elbow.

This is about as extreme as One of Our Own can get. Also an example of Adult Fear; it's a reasonably common nightmare. See also Self Stitching.

Examples:

Anime and Manga
  • Franky of One Piece subverts this when he turns himself into a cyborg. Since he cant reach his backside, his butt is his only weak point.
  • Black Jack famously does this to remove parasites while being attacked by dingoes in the Australian Outback.
  • This is basically Faust XIII's shtick in Shaman King. He keeps himself all hopped up on morphine so he can freely modify his own body whenever he needs to.

Comic Books
  • Hush from Batman can perform surgery on himself, including plastic surgery to make himself look like others as he did in the comics and Batman: Arkham City.

Film
  • Both Moss and Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, in excruciating detail.
  • Cast Away features a scene where Chuck has to extract a bothersome tooth.
  • Lampshaded and subverted in The Dark Knight Saga when Alfred finds Bruce stitching up a dog bite on his arm and remarks "Whenever you stitch yourself up, you do make a bloody mess" before taking over.
  • Wade, The Medic from The Squad in Saving Private Ryan, gets hit by enemy fire a little more than halfway through the movie. He tries guiding the others through some things, until he comes to realize that his case is hopeless. At which point he just tells them to give him lots of morphine.
  • The crazy psychiatrist in the movie The Front Page is last seen rolling away on a gurney demanding a scalpel and a ceiling mounted mirror so he can operate on himself; he being the doctor he trusted.
  • In Saw, the Big Bad often requires his "students" to perform grievous injuries to oneself to pass his trials. More often than not, they are given appropiate surgical equipment for the task. One of the last scenes of the very first movie involves a man chopping his foot off with a bonesaw in order to escape. Interestingly, the man in question is actually a trained surgeon, one of the only such people in the series.
  • The Terminator does this in The Terminator, but he's a cyborg with a meat suit - so it doesn't really affect him when he takes his own injured eye out.
  • Prometheus: The now-infamous scene of Shaw's self-administered emergency surgery. The tense buildup to the eventual cutting of the stomach and removal of the thing she "births" is bad enough, but it gets even worse when it bursts out of its sac in the Medpod's claw inches from her face and starts trying to attack her midway through the surgery.
  • The famous scene in 'Rambo'' where John cuts the bullet from his arm, then uses gunpowder to cauterize it the wound and finally sews it shut himself.

Literature
  • Dr Maturin in Master and Commander, in a ship's surgery during the Napoleonic Wars.
  • Stephen King has a grisly short story called Survivor Type where a doctor who survives some kind of wreck and winds up on a flyspeck island in the middle of the ocean. Eventually the good doctor has to turn cannibal on himself, cutting off certain parts, eating them, then taking care so that the area around the sacrificed part wouldn't get infected or anything. At the very end of the story the doctor, who is a surgeon and has been taking very good care of his hands the whole time, finally gets desperate enough to considering them as well... (Apparently when King first had this idea, he ran into a local doctor he knew at the supermarket and asked about whether the idea was at all feasible in real life. The doctor gave him a very odd look before replying that yes, it was theoretically possible).
  • Igors in Discworld do surgery on themselves all the time. Subverted, in a way, in that they don't actually feel any pain while doing this, so it's never an ordeal unless they have difficulty keeping the mirror steady.

Live-Action TV
  • Simon in Firefly.
  • Happens semi-regularly on House. Perhaps one of the most unpleasant examples came when House discovered he had several small tumours in his leg, and was forced to cut his leg open to remove them.
  • Jack comes pretty close with his appendectomy on Lost. The actual cutting is done by Juliet, but he insists on being conscious so he can tell her what to do.
    • A notable aversion occurs in the pilot. Jack is ready to stitch up a cut he sustained but it is on his side and he can't reach it properly. This prompts a Meet Cute moment with Kate when he asks her to stitch it up for him.
  • Ace Rimmer operates on his own broken arm in his first appearance in Red Dwarf.

Tabletop Games
  • When a young Victor Mordenheim of Ravenloft was bitten on the ear by one of his father's hunting dogs, he amputated the ripped lobe himself. His stoicism in doing so convinced his father that the boy was serious about his ambition to become a surgeon.

Video Games
  • In Persona 4 it never happens for real, but Naoto's Shadow expresses a desire to carry out a sex change operation on her(self). Representing her insecurity from being patronised by the police.
  • In Evil Genius, One of the henchmen you can recruit, Ethan Asia, was performing surgery on a Papa New Guinean tribesman, when his patient suffered a fatal heart attack while Ethan simultaneously suffered pancreatic failure. Seeing no other options, Ethan opted to transplant his patient's pancreas into his own body.

Web Original
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-542, a stitched-together Frankensteinian Herr Doktor type who routinely did this in order to replace his organs as they failed before he was taken into the care of the foundation.
  • Happens twice in the Dark Cut Meat Grinder Surgery series of flash games.
    • In the second game, you're operating on a patient on a American Civil War battlefield, when there's an explosion and you wake up to find a giant piece of shrapnel through your leg pinning you to the ground. You then have to amputate your own leg to survive (...with whiskey and a hacksaw).
    • In the third game, you're operating on patients via a virtual interface in the future, and eventually end up having to cut off your own arm instead to save yourself from being taken over and controlled by the AI helping you when it turns rogue, since the AI keeps you from removing the interface any other way.

Western Animation
  • Played for Laughs in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The evil doctor (forgot his name) tells his assistant "Gentlemen! I have decided to lose weight...manually!" And he promptly pulls out a chainsaw and begins cutting away at his fat.

Real Life
  • In 1961 Dr. Leonid Rogozov performed a self-appendectomy at a Soviet research station in Antarctica, as he was the only physician there.
  • In 1998 Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the only doctor at a South Pole scientific station, discovered she had breast cancer and had to operate on herself to extract tissue samples for testing.
  • The Other Wiki page on Self-surgery has a number of media examples.
  • The top four entries of this article.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • November 12, 2011
    burnpsy
    Franky of One Piece turns himself into a cyborg after he gets what would normally be fatal injuries when he was run over by a train as a kid.
  • November 12, 2011
    TheWanderer
    • Wade, The Medic from The Squad in Saving Private Ryan, gets hit by enemy fire a little more than halfway through the movie. He tries guiding the others through some things, until he comes to realize that his case is hopeless. At which point he just tells them to give him lots of morphine.
    • Stephen King has a grisly short story called Survivor Type where a doctor who survives some kind of wreck and winds up on a flyspeck island in the middle of the ocean. Eventually the good doctor has to turn cannibal on himself, cutting off certain parts, eating them, then taking care so that the area around the sacrificed part wouldn't get infected or anything. At the very end of the story the doctor, who is a surgeon and has been taking very good care of his hands the whole time, finally gets desperate enough to considering them as well... (Apparently when King first had this idea, he ran into a local doctor he knew at the supermarket and asked about whether the idea was at all feasible in real life. The doctor gave him a very odd look before replying that yes, it was theoretically possible).
  • November 12, 2011
    SKJAM
    • Black Jack famously does this to remove parasites while being attacked by dingoes in the Australian Outback.
  • November 12, 2011
    foxley
    See also Self Stitching.

    The crazy psychiatrist in the movie The Front Page is last seen rolling away on a gurney demanding a scalpel and a ceiling mounted mirror so he can operate on himself; he being the doctor he trusted.
  • November 12, 2011
    lamoxlamae
    I think the current title "Operating On Yourself" is fine. Obvious titles mean more people will find and use the trope.
  • November 13, 2011
    Folamh3
    • Happens semi-regularly on House. Perhaps one of the most unpleasant examples came when House discovered he had several small tumours in his leg, and was forced to cut his leg open to remove them.
  • November 13, 2011
    Arivne
    Real Life
    • In 1961 Dr. Leonid Rogozov performed a self-appendectomy at a Soviet research station in Antarctica, as he was the only physician there.
    • In 1998 Dr. Jerri Nielsen, the only doctor at a South Pole scientific station, discovered she had breast cancer and had to operate on herself to extract tissue samples for testing.

    The Other Wiki page on Self-surgery has a number of media examples.
  • November 13, 2011
    waitwaht
    • In Saw, the Big Bad often requires his "students" to perform grievous injuries to oneself to pass his trials. More often than not, they are given appropiate surgical equipment for the task. The very first scene of the very first movie involves a man chopping his foot off with a bonesaw in order to escape.
  • November 13, 2011
    Psychobabble6
    The top four entries of this article.
  • November 13, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    This is basically Faust XIII's shtick in Shaman King. He keeps himself all hopped up on morphine so he can freely modify his own body whenever he needs to.
  • November 13, 2011
    Folamh3
    Regarding the Saw example mentioned above, the man amputating his foot doesn't happen until the end of the film. Interestingly, the man in question is actually a trained surgeon, one of the only such people in the series.
  • November 14, 2011
    TrustBen
    Jack comes pretty close with his appendectomy on Lost. The actual cutting is done by Juliet, but he insists on being conscious so he can tell her what to do.
  • November 14, 2011
    darkclaw
    Hush from Batman can perform surgery on himself, including plastic surgery to make himself look like others as he did in the comics and Batman Arkham City.
  • November 14, 2011
    randomsurfer
    The Terminator does this in The Terminator, but he's a cyborg with a meat suit - so it doesn't really affect him when he takes his own injured eye out.
  • November 14, 2011
    nielas
    A notable aversion occurs in the pilot of Lost. Jack is ready to stitch up a cut he sustained but it is on his side and he can't reach it properly. This prompts a Meet Cute moment with Kate when he asks her to stitch it up for him.
  • November 14, 2011
    SharleeD
    Igors in Discworld do surgery on themselves all the time. Subverted, in a way, in that they don't actually feel any pain while doing this, so it's never an ordeal unless they have difficulty keeping the mirror steady.
  • November 20, 2011
    johnnye
    Should this be restricted to doctors, or just make it "you're the most medically qualified person around", to allow for examples like 127 Hours? I'm thinking the latter, it's basically the same trope.
  • November 20, 2011
    BooleanEarth
    ^I'd say it doesn't need to be restricted at all. It should just be about performing surgery on yourself. You could mention "you're the most medically qualified person around" as a possible in-story justification, though.

    I also thought of another example:

  • December 15, 2011
    vynsane
    Film

    • Cast Away features a scene where Chuck has to extract a bothersome tooth.

    • Lampshaded and subverted in The Dark Knight Saga when Alfred finds Bruce stitching up a dog bite on his arm and remarks "Whenever you stitch yourself up, you do make a bloody mess" before taking over.
  • December 20, 2011
    johnnye
    OK, going to launch this soon. Any suggestions for title/description/related tropes?
  • January 20, 2012
    morenohijazo
    • Prometheus: The now-infamous scene of Shaw's self-administered emergency surgery. The tense buildup to the eventual cutting of the stomach and removal of the thing she "births" is bad enough, but it gets even worse when it bursts out of its sac in the Medpod's claw inches from her face and starts trying to attack her midway through the surgery.
  • December 8, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • Ace Rimmer operates on his own broken arm in his first appearance in Red Dwarf.
  • December 8, 2012
    Bisected8
  • December 8, 2012
    bulmabriefs144
    • Played For Laughs in Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The evil doctor (forgot his name) tells his assistant "Gentlemen! I have decided to lose weight...manually!" And he promptly pulls out a chainsaw and begins cutting away at his fat.
  • December 8, 2012
    Chernoskill
    I assume the famous scene in 'Rambo'' where John cuts the bullet from his arm, then uses gunpowder to cauterize it the wound and finally sews it shut himself counts?
  • December 8, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    • Happens twice in the Dark Cut Meat Grinder Surgery series of flash games.
      • In the second game, you're operating on a patient on a American Civil War battlefield, when there's an explosion and you wake up to find a giant piece of shrapnel through your leg pinning you to the ground. You then have to amputate your own leg to survive (...with whiskey and a hacksaw).
      • In the third game, you're operating on patients via a virtual interface in the future, and eventually end up having to cut off your own arm instead to save yourself from being taken over and controlled by the AI helping you when it turns rogue, since the AI keeps you from removing the interface any other way.
  • December 9, 2012
    Astaroth
    • In Evil Genius, One of the henchmen you can recruit, Ethan Asia, was performing surgery on a Papa New Guinean tribesman, when his patient suffered a fatal heart attack while Ethan simultaneously suffered pancreatic failure. Seeing no other options, Ethan opted to transplant his patient's pancreas into his own body.
  • December 13, 2012
    morenohijazo
    What about Self Surgery?

    By the way, this needs to be indexed.
  • December 13, 2012
    SharleeD
    • When a young Victor Mordenheim of Ravenloft was bitten on the ear by one of his father's hunting dogs, he amputated the ripped lobe himself. His stoicism in doing so convinced his father that the boy was serious about his ambition to become a surgeon.
  • December 15, 2012
    morenohijazo
    Probably we should merge this with Self Stitching.
  • December 15, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ ....yeah, good find. I'd vote to rename that article to the more inclusive name here, and then merge these examples into it if they aren't there already.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=2x99vre7raa6ucddophzs527&trope=SelfSurgery