A legal leg to stand on: One man’s fight to turn his amputated leg into a working lamp

Image is a screen cap of A Christmas Story with footage from YouTube

Image is a screen cap of A Christmas Story with footage from YouTube

When Leo Bonten, a 53-year-old Dutch man, needed to have his right leg amputated earlier this year because the broken limb became infected, he was inspired to turn his amputated leg into a floor lamp. But this bit of morbid creativity also started a legal battle with the hospital.

In July of 2012, when one of Bonten’s friend pushed him into a pool he slipped and his friend landed on top of him, fracturing his leg in many places. Doctors performed numerous surgeries in an attempt to fix his lower leg.

After two years, in June 2014, a bacterial infection ravaged the knee joint leaving the lower portion of his right leg useless. When his doctors discussed amputation with him, rather than becoming depressed, Bonten decided to turn his severed leg into a floor lamp – rather than incinerating or burying it.

When the hospital refused, it caused a legal debate about who the rightful owner of the leg was: Bonten or the hospital. According to Dutch law, an amputated limb is considered medical waste and is the property of the hospital where it was removed, and the hospital is responsible for properly disposing the leg.

Bonten told the NRC Reader, “ My leg is my property. People keep their kidney stones in a jar on the mantelpieces. Ashes of deceased people are included in tattoos. I’m going to make a lamp of my leg.”

He kind of has a point.

The hospital relented but said that in order to get around the Dutch law they would have to bury the leg and then exhume it. When Bonten declined those ridiculous and costly terms, the hospital refused to do the amputation. But both parties ultimately came to an understanding.

The hospital pathologist preserved the leg and lighting designer Willem Schaperkotter constructed the lamp.   The leg was placed in a formaldehyde-filled container, which became the base of a large LED lamp. The finished product was certainly not as pretty as the leg lamp made famous by A Christmas Story. You can see pictures of the lamp here.

Bonten was hit with some hard financial times so he decided to sell his leg lamp on eBay to raise money for a prosthetic as well as a foundation to help amputees. But the listing was removed because it breaks eBay’s policy that bans the sale of human body parts.

Bonten is currently looking for other ways of selling this piece of macabre art.

Pictures of Bonten’s recovery and the lamp can be seen at Improbable Research.

I read about this story first on io9.


Cellania, M. (2014). The Real Leg Lamp. Retrieved on September 24, 2014 from: http://www.neatorama.com/2014/09/23/The-Real-Leg-Lamp-2/

Davis, L. (2014). Man Turned His Amputated Leg Into A Real-Life Leg Lamp. Retrieved on September 24, 2014 from: http://io9.com/man-turned-his-amputated-leg-into-a-real-life-leg-lamp-1638650185

Solon, O. (2014). Dutch man fights for the right to turn his amputated leg into a lamp – then puts it on eBay. Retrieved on September 24, 2014 from: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/dutch-man-fights-right-turn-4314698#ixzz3EGlLdyDA

The man who lost his leg and gained a floor lamp. (2014). Retrieved on September 24, 2014 from: http://www.improbable.com/2014/09/01/the-man-who-lost-his-leg-and-gained-a-floor-lamp/



Categories: Art and Ephemera, News


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  1. Life Imitates Art: A Dutch Man's Battle to Turn his Amputated Leg into a Lamp - Dirge Magazine

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