Cost of Movement Do limbs cost more than cars?

After the Boston Bombing in 2013, many people were killed and even more were injured. ABC News covered the topic of these injured civilization and the new realities and obstacles they had to face, specifically those who had an amputation due to their injury. Throughout the article it is determined that prosthetics (leg specifically are very expensive) and when a runner has been through a traumatic event like the Boston bombing, financial struggle is one of many they have to face. Glenn Garrison, director of prosthetics and orthotics at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, stated, "They're probably in line with a cost of a car. It can be a pricey thing to work with." (Mohney, 2013). Is it possible that a car can be equal to the cost of a leg? Let's find out.

In 2013, CBC released an article showing the average cost of the 20 most popular cars in Canada and the USA. The price in Canadian dollars ranged from $15,995 ( 2014 Toyota Corolla) to $56,750 (2013 Acura ZDX), (CBC, 2013). Many cars listed fell between those two digits. The cost of the car is only the beginning, there is money needed for insurance, gas, and maintenance. There are so many drivers in the world and to be without a car or ability to drive can greatly impact an individuals independence, or lack therefore of. However expensive cars may be, are they more or less expensive than the cost of a prosthetic limb actually cost more than a car? Shouldn't necessities (such as a new limb) cost less, or even have no cost?

Lower limb amputation is more common than upper limb, with the leading cause in the Western world being Diabetes.

The cost of a prothetic leg can vary depending on amputation level and the technology incorporated into the limb. For example, an arm with myoelectric components will cost exponentially more than a cosmetic arm. According to ABC News, a prosthetic leg can range in price anywhere from"$5,000 to $50,000" (Mohney, 2013). Another source found that the price of a prosthetic leg can cost up to $100,000 (Resnick, 2010).

Most amputees need to wait about 6 weeks before they can be fitted for a prosthetic limb.

In the first year following my amputation I had over 5 different prosthetics made for me, each costing about $2,000 and made of a thick plastic and plaster. The final leg I was made, made of fibreglass cost over $5,000. The swim leg I own was around $6,000. This is only a small cost compared to what others pay and thankfully I have funding support from War Amps programs CHAMPS (Child Amputees). The costs don't end here. To get to my prosthetic clinic for adjustments or fittings I took a two hour drive (one-way), that is a lot of gas money. For amputees who need vehicle modifications that cost can range between $500 to $1000. In the United States, health care is not as accessible or free to the public like we have in Canada. The average hospital one night stay costs $3,949 (Mohney, 2013). The price adds up and these are all costs that were never asked for.

The average prosthetic for an adult can last between 3-5 years (Mohney, 2013). (All pictures are personal property)

The causes of amputation include: diabetes, cancer/disease/infection, trauma/accident, war, and congenital deformity. There is not one single amputee who had a say in their amputation. Yes, some amputees have a choice. For example, a cancer patient can choose to live with cancer or try to fight it by loosing a limb. But it is not a choice to have an amputation, more often than not it is a choice to have a better quality of life. The same may be said for buying a car. To own a car can give you a better quality of life. But following an amputation, the choice to walk should not cost equal or more than the price of an automobile.

The society we live in today has seen that material have value regardless of their use. The metal, plastic, wood, or rubber that go into making a prosthetic for a patient are commodities. However, I have seen significant progress in the world of 3-D printing. It is possible today to built strong prosthetic limbs for individuals for under $40. At an accessibility innovations show in Toronto I attended I watched prosthetic limb prototypes being made quickly and inexpensively. The time and cost of 3-D limbs can be cut in half. I need to do more research on the developments of 3-D limbs as I am not sure why this isn't the new normal for amputees. Regardless, have two legs is a humans initial form of transportation. Taking our first steps as a baby lead to running and forward in life. The famous quote goes " A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step", so why are these steps given price tags?

For further information on the cost of prosthetic limbs and living with an amputation, check out these links or talk to me:


CBC. (2013). "How much do new cars cost in the the U.S. and Canada?". Marketplace.

Resnick, B. (2010). "The Problem With Modern-Day, High-Tech Prosthetics". Popular Mechanics.

Mohney, G. (2013). "Health Care Costs for Boston Marathon Amputees Add Up Over Time". ABC News.

Created By
Emily Williamson


Created with images by andreas160578 - "auto financing financing interest" • Pexels - "car light macro" • Cluster Munition Coalition - "CLUSTER BOMBS - SOUTH LEBANON"

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