Editorials

Chemical castration for sex offenders

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c74 (Published 12 January 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c74
  1. Don Grubin, professor of forensic psychiatry1,
  2. Anthony Beech, professor in criminological psychology2
  1. 1St Nicholas Hospital, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne NE3 3XT
  2. 2School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
  1. don.grubin{at}ncl.ac.uk

    Doctors should avoid becoming agents of social control

    In November 2009, in response to several high profile sex offences committed against children, Polish President Lech Kaczynski signed a law allowing for the compulsory treatment of some sex offenders with antiandrogenic drugs, commonly referred to as chemical castration. Following a sexual killing carried out by a repeat sex offender in France, the French National Assembly is considering legislation that would make chemical castration mandatory for some sex offenders. Laws in several American states allow compulsory medical treatment of offenders who have committed serious sex offences. Chemical, as well as physical, castration of sex offenders takes place in psychiatric hospitals in the Czech Republic under the legal framework of “protective treatment.” Meanwhile, in England the Department of Health is supporting an initiative to facilitate the prescription of drugs on a voluntary basis for sex offenders in the criminal justice system.1

    Demand for the prescription of antiandrogens or physical castration for sex offenders is a common reaction by lawmakers and politicians when a high profile sexual crime is committed. Although castration is ostensibly for public protection, it also carries with it a sense of symbolic retribution. Whether medical or surgical, the procedure requires the participation of doctors, and this gives rise to questions regarding the basis of medical involvement. Some people …

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