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How many organs in the body could you live without? © Getty Images

How many organs in the body could you live without?

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Looking to donate your digestive system? You’ll be surprised as to how much you could lose and still live.

Asked by: Alicia Jones, Maidstone


You can still have a fairly normal life without one of your lungs, a kidney, your spleen, appendix, gall bladder, adenoids, tonsils, plus some of your lymph nodes, the fibula bones from each leg and six of your ribs. Losing your uterus, ovaries and breasts, or your testicles and prostate, is also quite survivable, although you might need hormone therapy to avoid other long-term problems, such as brittle bones.

If you allow yourself artificial replacements and medication, we can go further and remove your stomach, colon, pancreas, salivary glands, thyroid, bladder and your other kidney. Still not enough for you? Theoretically, surgeons could amputate all of your limbs, and remove your eyes, nose, ears, larynx, tongue, lower spine and rectum. Supported by machines in an intensive care unit, they could also take away your skull, heart and your remaining lung, at least for a short while.

This adds up to a theoretically survivable loss of around 45 per cent of your total body mass. But any trauma that destroyed all these organs all at once would almost certainly kill you from shock and blood loss. And surgically removing them one at a time over many months would likely also be fatal, due to infections in your immune-compromised state.

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luis villazon
Luis VillazonQ&A expert

Luis trained as a zoologist, but now works as a science and technology educator. In his spare time he builds 3D-printed robots, in the hope that he will be spared when the revolution inevitably comes.


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