A Saudi judge has asked several hospitals whether they could deliberately damage a man's spinal cord as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver and paralysing him.
The Saudi Okaz newspaper reported that a leading hospital in Riyadh told the judge that it could not do the operation.
Two of the hospitals involved and the court in north-western Tabuk province were closed for the Saudi weekend and could not be reached for comment.
Saudi Arabia enforces Islamic law and sometimes metes out punishments based on the ancient code of an eye-for-an-eye.
The reports said Abdul-Aziz al-Mutairi, 22, was left paralysed after a fight more than two years ago and asked a judge to impose an equivalent punishment on his attacker under Islamic law.
Okaz said the judge, identified as Saoud bin Suleiman al-Youssef, asked at least two hospitals for a medical opinion on whether surgeons could render the attacker's spinal cord non-functional. The attacker has spent seven months in jail.
The King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh said "inflicting such harm is not possible," apparently refusing on ethical grounds.
Islamic law applied in Saudi Arabia allows defendants to ask for a similar punishment for harms inflicted on them. Cutting off the hands of thieves is common.
Under the law, the victim can receive blood money to settle the case.
Human rights group say trials in Saudi Arabia fall far below international standards. They usually take place behind closed doors and without adequate legal representation. Saudi King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology, including unauthorised clerics issuing odd religious decrees.