Dad putting new prosthetic hand on boyThere have been countless advances in technology that benefit amputees in recent years. Some of these advances can be seen in the work of Dr. Hugh Herr who at 17 lost both legs as a result of hypothermia in a mountain climbing accident. Dr. Herr is working to improve prosthetic limbs and has won multiple patents for prosthetic innovations after finding problems in his own prosthetics. My job as an Atlanta trial attorney handling serious injury cases in Georgia is to always help clients with amputation injuries secure the funds to take advantage of these new advances. Luckily for many clients, there are new advances that could make having a great prosthetic as easy as click and print.

As technology continues to advance, so do the ways in which everyday people are using this technology to benefit their life. One of the newest advances in technology has been the 3D printer. 3D printing is the process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes. This piece of technology has allowed for people like Ivan Owen to create objects that can change people’s lives in very substantial ways.

Paul McCarthy and his wife were ecstatic 12 years ago when they found out they were having their first boy. However, when their son Leon was born they found that he had a hand without fingers. The doctor’s said the fingers didn’t develop due to restricted blood flow to the hand.

“It was hard for me, it was hard for my wife,” said McCarthy.

It would be a scary time for any parent, however McCarthy’s fears wouldn’t stop him from looking for any solution for his son. The McCarthy family was well aware that Leon would need a prosthetic so that he could try and live just as any other boy. However, they also knew the prosthetic Leon would need could cost up to $30,000. It was when Paul McCarthy was looking for help that he stumbled upon a video made by Ivan Owen that depicted a prosthetic that could be printed out on a new 3D printer. The blueprints were even there for the McCarthy’s to do it themselves.

While the printer itself runs about $2,000 the cost for materials is very cheap versus the alternative. And the best part, it works. The new prosthetic allows Leon McCarthy to pick up objects, write, and draw with the fingers his father created.

“Making your kid happy is priceless” said McCarthy.

As for Leon, he is quite happy with his new addition, especially when his hand looks visually appealing enough to be part of a sci-fi novel. And the fact that his father built him this incredible tool means even more to Leon.

“It has been really nice being able to do things like pick water bottles up and play with my friends,” said Leon McCarthy.

Ken Shigley is past president of the State Bar of Georgia (2011-12), double board certified in Civil Trial Advocacy and Civil Pretrial Advocacy by the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification, and lead author of Georgia Law of Torts: Trial Preparation and Practice.  His Atlanta-based civil trial practice is focused on representation of plaintiffs in cases of castastrophic personal injury and wrongful death.