MAD DOG: Go Ahead, Give Me a Hand

Some people are really ungrateful. Like children, for instance. At least that's what every parent says who ever had one that didn't thank them profusely for "all the things we've done and sacrificed for you." Which is pretty much all of them. Hormel and Libby are ungrateful. They should be thanking everyone involved in "Hannibal" at least once an hour for making luncheon meat -- whatever that is -- suddenly seem like gourmet dining, but they're not.

But the biggest ingrate alive may be Clint Hallam, the man who received the world's first hand transplant in 1998 and recently decided to give it back. Hopefully not to whoever gave it to him in the first place.

He's not saying why he had it removed, but doctors say it wasn't being rejected. I feel certain it didn't take on a life of its own like the one in "The Hand" or we would have read about it in the Enquirer. There is, of course, the possibility that he saw "Hook" and was inspired to make a fashion statement, but that's farfetched since it would have been much, much easier to pick up some moustache wax, a pirate hat, and some of Adam Ant's old shirts and call it a day.

Whatever the reason, doctors in London took the hand off and sent it to France to be made into pâté. Just kidding. Actually they sent it there to be examined. After they spent the day running around the hospital asking everyone if they "need a hand", of course. Hey, even doctors like a good joke, especially since there are only so many times you can pull the "Doctor, it hurts when I do this" gag without the benefit of a Demerol I.V. drip and still get a laugh.

Why they had to send it to France is a mystery. When Charles I, Henry VIII, and Sir Walter Raleigh were beheaded you didn't see anyone shipping the spare parts out of the country, even though you know they were dying to do it just so they could pin a note on it that said, "We always told Charlie he should have his head examined." Like doctors, executioners never get tired of hearing the same old jokes.

What's even odder is that the hand got across the border, since everyone in Europe is scared to death of foot-and-mouth disease right now. That's right, foot-and-mouth disease has knocked mad cow disease out of the number one spot on Europe's Top 10 Medical Scare Chart after an unprecedented three-year run. It's gotten so bad that Belgium closed down two zoos and Dublin cancelled their St. Patrick's Day parade just to make sure the marching animals wouldn't spread the disease -- the ovine ones, not the hard drinking Irish ones. What next, a haggis quarantine?

Even though you can't ship a filet mignon from one country to the next, apparently it's okay to wrap up a spare hand, slap a few stamps on the package, and drop it in the nearest mail box. I'm sure this will end too if the disease mutates into hand-to-mouth disease, which to date is mostly a problem among those on the dole in England but could easily spread should the global economy enter a new Ice Age.

It's interesting that France would even want Hallam's hand, since they usually don't want anything to do with the English. That's why you won't find an English muffin in Paris, they've been known to throw stale baguettes at any tennis player who puts English on the ball, and they routinely spit on the floor if they get stuck taking a British Airways flight. Well, that and the fact that they think it's an American owned airline.

It would have been easier -- and saved postage -- had Hallam had his hand removed in France, but that may not be legal. According to the Napoleonic Code, self-mutilation is a crime. Thus public hospitals in France won't perform circumcisions and almost no one will perform a vasectomy. Except, of course, a wife who catches her husband cheating before he catches her. Even if they would perform it, what man in his right mind -- which for the sake of this discussion shall benevolently include French ones -- wants a doctor getting near his private parts knowing he's been drinking wine with lunch. And breakfast. And his mid-morning snack.

To get around this -- the inability to get a vasectomy, not the French passion for drinking wine -- a British sexual health charity called Marie Stopes International (motto: "Stopes, in the name of love") has set up vasectomy clinics in London and Ashford. They did this to make it easy for the unclipped French, since both of these cities are regular stops on the Eurostar run. Thus, you can expect the railway to start using a new advertising slogan any day now: "Eurostar, a cut below the rest."

The question is, will these English doctors feel the same urge to send any parts they remove to France like they did Hallam's hand? And will the French men be more grateful than Hallam or will they have patient's remorse and want the parts reattached later? It's questions like these that keep medical ethicists awake at night. Well, that and the vague ingredient list on the label of the luncheon meat they ate today.

More Mad Dog can be found online at: www.maddogproductions.com.

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