Who explicitly spits on hooks and body powered prosthetic arm technology? [list]

Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Who explicitly spits on hooks and body powered prosthetic arm technology? [list]; published December 15, 2014, 20:52; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=3312.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1568578362, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{Technical Below Elbow Amputee Issues - Who explicitly spits on hooks and body powered prosthetic arm technology? [list]}}, month = {December},year = {2014}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=3312}}

What if Captain Hook would have had a prosthetic hand put on? Captain Hand? Could have really changed things. [link] (Jonathan Tony ‏@jonathantony Dec 12, 2014)

Placing mental images in minds of non disabled people has a proven destructive effect on people with handicap.

Modern wild and crazy continuations of that same concept are not better than old myths [link] [link].

One of these issues is the regurgitation of the "Captain Hook" metaphor and its effect for amputee kids (and even adults!) to not wear split hooks - despite a clear overall superiority of body powered split hooks over any other option.


What does the Captain Hook metaphor entail?

From [link]:

"Giving disabilities to villainous characters reflects and reinforces, albeit in exaggerated fashion, three common prejudices against handicapped people; disability is a punishment for evil; disabled people are embittered by their “fate”; disabled people resent the nondisabled and would, if they could, destroy them," —Paul Longmore ---- As the author Jack A. Nelson states in his article “Broken Images: Portrayals of Those with Disabilities in American Media,” people with disability are often seen in media as a villain. “The image of threatening, evil character who also has a prominent disability,” Nelson states and he goes onto specifically mention the prevalence a deformity of the body in villainous characters (Nelson, 5). One of such characters includes Captain Hook in the Disney 1953 release of Peter Pan. The dominate storyline in this film is because Peter Pan has chopped Captain Hook’s hand off, the hooked- man will endlessly seek revenge and kill the boy wonder— Peter Pan. Disney’s main depiction Captain Hook is one of an amputee. The main focuses on Hook’s identity is as a hooked man. As a character, Captain Hook is driven by this notion that he is a crippled man and thus leaving children to believe this is a negative condition of life. The audience is not given the opportunity to see Captain Hook’s character before his disability. “Disney animators unfortunately accentuate Hook’s prosthesis at every turn; indeed, there are very few shots of the captain in which the hook is not conspicuous, as he often uses to mete out punishment or simply brandishes it as a threat,” (Norden 216). We don’t know whether he was “evil” before this incident with Peter Pan, or if his amputated hand is truly the root of his evil. By painting Captain Hook as an single dimensional character, children are forced to assume that Captain Hook is evil because of his hook! It does not help that Disney makes Captain Hook out to like a crazy person. He literally goes insane by the end of the film. In the ending sequence, Captain Hook’s eyes being to spin, he turns bright red with anger and his body convulses as Peter Pan defeats him. Disney portrays going “mad” as negative, a result of defeat. Disney also shines a negative light on having a disability in general. Captain Hook uses the fact that he has a disability as the sole reasoning for seeking revenge on Peter Pan. Hook is dissatisfied with his life as and amputee and is unable to cope with it. As Jack Nelson defines in his article, “persons are bitter and full of self pity because they have not learned to handle their disability,” (Nelson, 6). As a maladjusted person with a disability, Captain Hook is bitter and self loathing for merely being a one-handed man. Hook obsesses over defeating Peter Pan, avoiding the possibility of another incident with the crocodile and the fact that he has a hook for a hand. Peter Pan has driven him insane and children watching can only conclude having a disability (like missing a hand) will drive you crazy—-crazy enough to manipulate everyone around you and crazy enough to want to kill.

The excursion continues with this [link]:

Take Captain Hook for example. He exemplifies all three of these “prejudices.” First, his hand was eaten by the crocodile and can be inferred to symbolically represent punishment for being evil. Second, Captain Hook seems to be cognitively affected by the trauma of losing his hand and the handicap and disadvantage of having a hook is subtly hinted at when he fights with Peter Pan. Lastly, Captain Hook seeks to get revenge on Peter Pan and seems to be belligerent toward anyone in his way. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Disney is insensitive to these depictions, but these false notions of people with disabilities are inevitably shaping how we view them.

In a wider sense [link]:

There's an entire subset of villains who seem to have taken Peter Pan's Captain Hook as their hand model: Candyman, Inspector Gadget's Dr Claw, George Kennedy in Charade. Dr No has metal pincers in place of hands, while Enter the Dragon's Mr Han has a set of stabby, slicey attachments that wouldn't look out of place dicing vegetables in an industrial kitchen. The fact that, hook or no hook, it might not be cricket to beat up an amputee never seems to occur to the heroes of these movies, nor even to audiences, a notion that reaches its apogee in Robert Harmon's 2004 thriller Highwaymen, in which we're rooting for able-bodied good guy Jim Caviezel against a psychokiller who has prosthetic limbs and is confined to a wheelchair. (...) Cigarettes having once been considered the epitome of cool, we also see Harold Russell using his metal appendages to light one up near the beginning of William Wyler's multiple Oscar-winning drama The Best Years of Our Lives. Russell, whose hands were replaced by metal hooks after a training accident during World War Two, plays one of a trio of American veterans struggling to fit back into smalltown life after the war. His affecting performance won not one but two Oscars – one for Best Supporting Actor, the other an honorary award for "bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans". And you can't argue with that.

 It is quite clear that actually using the Captain Hook metaphor constitutes a problem that we cannot take lightly just on basis of what it is supposed to mean. But its detrimental effects go eyond that.

There are other myths and metaphors that stereotypically address severed hands and hook (link).

Assessing the damage

  • As mentioned previously, a number of children reported that prior to using the hand they had been called "Captain Hook" by other children and that this had disturbed them. There is considerable evidence that the effects of this name-calling can be quite destructive to social relations among children. One girl, in fact, refused to wear the prosthesis to school after such an incident. When the hand was worn these difficulties tended to disappear. [link]
  • People actually post views like that. "Lance on Twitter" writes in a tweet [link]: "Saw a guy missing an arm with a hook for a prosthetic. Avoided staring 2 be polite but wanted to not cuz it was weird bc it was SICK AS FUCK".

Cementing that into the public mind thus does our community a superb disservice. Not only are split hooks extremely useful for ADL, they remedy asymmetry and overuse very well and they are quite affordable. None of that is even closely true for "bionic" hands - in fact, it is worse: if you actually recommend a "bionic" arm against better knowledge, it automatically makes you fail the Voight-Kampff test, placing you next to robots on an empathy scale [link].

It is an problem to have such individuals around, and documentedly and anecdotally, also certainly out of my experience, these people do cause us tangible grief and pain.

They also provide a strange, eerie and ugly mental world deep inside the Uncanny Valley [link], whose realization costs us:

  • increased cost for prostheses (as hooks are better and more affordable) [link];
  • increased cost, pain and loss of function for overuse of the remaining hand (as hooks are far better functionally) [link];
  • increased cost with back pain due to asymmetry [link];
  • increased cost for overuse of the amputated arm (center of gravity issues) [link];
  • logically, increased cost for decreased ability to work and function.

So it is quite perfectly clear, that we now will have to look at who goes out to be verbally destructive in distributing the "hook being bad because it is arcane" type metaphor. Just because it was there does not mean it was just such a great idea to pick it up now, was it.

After all, these people are destroying realities for arm amputees by distributing myths and fairy-tales, or, more bluntly put, by manipulating and lying, in a fashion that the public view on things can make it very hard for amputees to really go and wear split hooks.

Concise instances

Promembro Swiss association to "legalise" high tech prostheses for leg amputees

This post is also available in German [link].

On their website promembro.ch, they claim "We are the lobby of the prosthesis wearers and create a Swiss network that specializes in the protection of the interests of all of the prosthesis wearers: young people and the elderly, athletes and non-athletes, active and pensioners, the sick and healthy. We represent the concerns of our members in the population as well as in politics and administration. The institutions such as Procap or Pro Infirmis are too big to pay enough attention to the small number of prosthesis wearers."

With that, these individuals sure as hell do not represent all of the prosthesis wearers and definitely not me. They certainly do no represent concerns that I have. When I told them via their Facebook page that their choice of pirate symbolisms was offensive, there was neither an apology nor a nice word. So, that seals it I guess. If they spit down on me, I see no tomorrow for their representation.

They use the pirate metaphor to make solid old principles for prosthetic build bad, and look funny. Sure, I may wear a highly modern, technically advanced prosthesis but it is still a hook, and as also prior to that, some idiots had tried to put me up on a stand as a pirate, more specifically as the Captain Hook villain, and exhibit me as old shit, I take offense here, thank you very much.

All photos made "freely available" on web link.

So, another example of people that did not manage to stay polite, but to actively spit on body powered arms and to actively make prosthetic traded technology look bad by use of the pirate metaphor. This is supported by a Mister Glaettli and a Mister Golay.

They claim that they cannot use newly developed technology as insurances would not cover that.

That in itself is clearly wrong. It is quite simply a wrong fact. Insurances are desperate to purchase or buy solutions that are better. They pay for my own, self developed parts such as cable setup (functional improvement and financial improvement: massive), my own wrist development (both functionally and financially, for insurance, massively better) and definitely our shoulder anchor solution (avoids neurological serious complications, so totally interesting for insurance as well as for me). How did I do that? Yes, you would like to know, I guess.

They claim that current Swiss law allows insurance to prevent new technologies for prostheses so they would have to be paid.

That is clearly wrong, also. Law requires insurances to consider applications for a prosthetic limb that works, and that is functional. To protect everyone from new developments that are not proven as functional, current legislation is quite sensible. It is a sad fact that many new developments, functionally, are just trash. To then protect taxpayer and insurance fee payers, as well as misguided users, from walking into the wrong direction, sober and hard testing and device rejection or approval procedures are necessary. The SHAB and the IV seem, from my view, to be perfectly able to provide that.

Young and unexperienced reporter

  • Sarah Gray [twitter]: "According to “60 Minutes,” before Deka Arm, and others like it that are not yet approved, the standard prosthetic arm hadn’t changed much since WWII, and sometimes involved a Captain Hook-like device." [link]
  • Alexis Sobel Fitts [twitter]: "There is a video that made the rounds of medical conferences in 2009. It begins with Fred Downs, a gruff four-time Purple Heart awardee and the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs prosthetic program, demonstrating the hook he’s worn strapped to his left shoulder for the last 40-years, ever since he lost his arm in Vietnam. The hook looks just like you’d expect – the spitting image of Captain Hook’s cruel pirate arm: curved steel screwed to a varnished wood stump. It’s not so bad, explains Downs, as he hooks a soda and drags it across a table toward his real arm. If the hook is a relic of medieval times the next scene flashes straight to the age of enlightenment. Downs has been fitted into the “Luke” arm, a shiny, state-of-the-art mechanical limb (named for Luke Skywalker) that’s been surgically attached to his shoulder, allowing the device to sense the electronic impulses of his remaining nerves and move in concordance." [link]
  • D. S. Halacy Jr [bio]: "Advanced-technological prostheses to provide greater physical achievements: Prosthetics have been defined broadly as device by which humans not only regain abilities thy have lost, but also to add new "unnatural" abilities. In this sense telescopes, bull horns, and airplanes are prosthetic devices. The term is customarily applied to the applications of artificial limbs. The thought of amputation is repugnant and understandably so. It is instinctive to fear the loss of a limb; this is part of nature's survival mechanism. Mention of an artificial limb in the past made people think of a replacement with a frightening metal hook at its end. Captain Hook, who wielded his sharp prosthetic "hand" as a horrible weapon. Another vicious character in fiction, Long John Silver, got about on a peg leg. It is unfortunate that the connotation of evil has become associated with the artificial arm and leg. Added to our natural squeamishness about such things, it has made acceptance of amputees a difficult thing, and particularly for the handicapped themselves. Electronically powered devices making advances in prostheses: With the sophistication of electronic equipment and devices, it is possible to identify and amplify individual tiny voltages produced in nerves by signals from the brain." [link] (Excerpts from Cyborg: Evolution of the Superman by D.S. Halacy, Jr.; Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, 1965 and from "Great Expectations" by Paul T. Webber, Orthopedic Technology Review, January/February, 2001).
  • Undisclosed writer: "Mind-controlled prosthetics are making leaps and bounds in terms of dexterity. Research at the University of Pittsburgh has yielded what's considered the most advanced prosthetic arm control system yet. We've come a long way from Captain Hook with brain implants and prosthesis." [link] (The original Reuters article did not contain the derogatory Captain Hook remark).
  • Eric Fein: "No more days of hook hands and dead weight.  This (bionic) hand (that can feel) will likely one day be just as functional as a real limb with the added benefit of knowing the difference between a lover’s caress and the crushing force of a Buick parked on top of it." [link]
  • Ben Mcgrath [link] [twitter]: "The robotization of humans for medical purposes is in some respects already highly advanced. Cochlear implants replicate hearing through the electrical stimulation of auditory nerves, artificial retinas promise to undo the effects of blindness, and even automated bladder control for the incontinent is now available, at least in laboratory prototype. Medical researchers have begun to explore the possibility that people can regenerate lost appendages, in the manner of salamanders and starfish, and are harvesting extracellular powder from pigs’ bladders, which may prove useful in growing new human-finger tissue. But when it comes to real locomotive hardware—the stuff of Darth Vader, functionally speaking—we’re still closer to Captain Hook than to RoboCop." [link]

Male stake holder in "bionic" research

  • Geoffrey Ling [link]: " “Upper extremity limb replacement has not really progressed since the days of Captain Hook,” quote by Colonel Geoffrey Ling of DARPA’s Defense Science department told Weill Cornell Medicine." [link]
  • Priya Ganapati [twitter], about Dean Kamen [link]: "But prosthetic arms still call to mind stiff, heavy chunks of plastic — barely one step up from Captain Hook’s creepy iron claw. “Prosthetic legs are in the 21st century,” Dean Kamen recently told the trade publication IEEE Spectrum. “With prosthetic arms, we’re in the Flintstones.” Kamen, who invented the Segway, has been working on creating an advanced artificial limb." [link].


  • Elaine Trefler, P. & O.T. Reg., BOT [link]: "Let's Put a Hand on Captain Hook" - "We are acknowledging that hooks are not esthetically pleasing. We are now listening more attentively to the comments of parents about their child's prosthesis because we know that if the parent accepts the prosthesis in all likelihood the child will also. We are listening to the complaints of the child who is being called Captain Hook and does not want to return to school." [link]

Amputees posing as poster boys for prosthetic companies:

  • Damien Gayle [link] writing about Nigel Ackland: "Some people don't understand is how alienating loosing a limb can be and how the negative associations we have with hooks. 'When you think of fictional characters with a hook you have Captain Hook - well he's basically a terrorist - with this device people see the future. 'People will stop and say its like I-robot and the terminator, how they associate is half the battle with people understanding prosthetic limbs. 'When you first lose a limb it can take a massive blow to your confidence. 'People in the street don't really know how to react to the fact that you have no arm and as a result you can be left feeling exceptionally withdrawn." [link]

Addressing the actually wrong information

Not only are these type of media articles damaging to an arm amputee, they are also wrong. You may argue that statistically, it does not at all matter whether an arm amputee suffers from the asinine bullshit that is written - but that still leaves the authors with the fact that they are factually wrong. And with all respect for their sportsmen-like asocial behavior towards an absolute minority group [link] - that is a really hard stone to swallow for anyone calling themselves journalist.

Absence of feeling (Eric Fein)

Yeah, right.

  • I do type without looking.
  • I can tell the grip status of the prosthetic hook without looking.

Too lazy to look further ; )

Absence of advancement, progress (Geoffrey Ling [link])

Let me just list my body powered arm's components here, and I add the year when the respective part came into the world.

  • Shoulder anchor (2011): plastics, carbon fiber, new anatomically shaped development recently. No nerve compression, extremely short activation range, overhead work possible, comfortable, no sweat smell. You would never have guessed, but what do you know.
  • Socket (current): elbow free, carbon fiber. Light weight, robust. Elbow free firm suspension is great. What do you know about that!
  • Suspension (technology from around 1996): Ohio Willowwood Alpha liner. Very comfortable. What do you care. Did you pass the Voight Kampff test at all?
  • Pin lock (maybe 2003): fast lock / unlock, sturdy. If you want to carry stuff that matters. Otherwise, what do you know, right?
  • Puppchen wrist (our own construction and testing, around 2009-2011): vibration insensitive; wiggle free; service free. Only for real work and when it matters to you personally. Otherwise, who gives a damn.
  • Cable setup / Bowden mount (my own pat. pending 2014): extreme longevity, very low friction. Now, that is really only for the specialists here. The ones that really care about tight control.

I see not so much slack here as is predominant in the Russian arm domain [link]. My body powered arm is full of very modern developments. You just did not know that. Now chill ... that doesn't make me the moron, alright? The reality is ever so slightly different.

Heavy chunk of plastic (Priya Ganapati [twitter]), dead weight (Eric Fein)

  • Heaviness is attributed to old prostheses, and funnily enough (anyone dying of laughter at all?) the facts are entirely reverse [link]. The most modern electronic "bionic" arm is heaviest. The least technologically sophisticated arm is the lightest.
  • Functionally, any other option - no prosthesis, body powered hook, body powered hand - by far outruns the "bionic" prosthetic arm [link]  [link]. So the total opposite is true.


I am not saying hooks are beautiful. Sure their looks suck a bit, but honestly? Prosthetic hands suck, too. Wearing whatever also defines how disabled I turn out to be then and there - and sometimes, wearing a prosthetic arm can be more of a disability than not wearing one. Good taste in picking the right long term solution should be an acquired, educated choice, not an emotional run for the hill. I am not saying don't wear a body powered, passive or myoelectric hand. If for whatever reason that is what does the trick for you, by all means go for it. I am saying that vilifying split hooks for vilification's sake: that is ever so totally dumb. Because the people that do that and me, we are living on two different planets. And now for the summary:

  • Body powered hooks are extremely fast [link];
  • Body powered hooks are extremely useful [link];
  • Body powered arms generally can be very comfortable and affordable;
  • Those are requirements so these can be worn extensively;
  • Wearing a body powered arm extensively effectively addresses overuse and asymmetry [link] [link];
  • Becker hands only go with body powered arms [link].



Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com
I footnotes