In Raleigh, North Carolina, Jewel Shuping is finally happy. With the help of what was described as a “sympathetic psychologist,” Shuping, 30, fulfilled a lifelong dream in blinding herself with drain cleaner. Shuping says that she always wanted to be blind and is now overjoyed to be disabled. It is the latest example of what is called Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) where able bodied people disable themselves. What is even more astonishing is that there is no indication of any discipline of the alleged psychologist who performed this harmful practice.
Shuping says that the tried previously to blind herself in 2006 and spent her childhood staring into the sun to try to become blind. By 18, she was walking around with dark glasses and a white cane. By 20, she was fluent in braille.
She said that she finally found a doctor who agreed to blind her by giving her numbing eye drops and then drops of drain cleaner. She recalls the painful procedure with joy as fulfilling her longtime dream. A hospital tried against her will to save her eyes but they were unsuccessful. Indeed, she said that she was enraged when she woke and could see the television but soon her eyes failed entirely.
Shuping is now studying for a degree in education and says that she wants to help fellow blind people. Her only regret is that she wishes that she could have seen her father’s face again and now he has died. That could raise a challenging question of the suitability of a person for a teaching position (if she seeks one) after engaging in self-mutilation.
She insists “I really feel this is the way I was supposed to be born, that I should have been blind from birth . . . When there’s nobody around you who feels the same way, you start to think that you’re crazy. But I don’t think I’m crazy, I just have a disorder.”
This strikes most of us as a form of mental illness and the question is why a psychologist would participate in the mutilation of a patient to satisfy her craving to be blind. Obviously, such a doctor should be stripped of his or her license but there is no indication of any effort to identify the doctor. There is also the question of whether such action should be prosecuted as a crime. Many of us believe in the right of people to take their own lives but this is a case of someone who is clearly mentally ill seeking assistance with a mutilation of their body. Yet, there are clearly tough lines to draw here. After all, we allow people to engage in extensive piercings, branding, and blood lettings for recreation or style. Some are effectively permanent changes like the cutting of the tongue of “Lizard man.” Yet, this is a disability which imposes social costs for the community. The one thing that I am confidant about is that any doctor who participated in this action should not be treating patients of any kind. Shuping may be lying about the doctor but it seems hard to believe that someone could do this without help (at least not in both eyes as opposes to one eye given the pain, even with numbing drops). It is not impossible but, given her account, I would think that there would be an effort to determine the truth.