Offering surgical castration to sex offenders: the significance of the state's intentions

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In his thought-provoking article, John McMillan argues that the moral acceptability of offering surgical castration to imprisoned sex offenders depends partly on the state's intentions when making the offer.1 McMillan considers the situation where the prisoner will be detained for public protection for as long as he is considered dangerous and where the state and the offender both know that he may become non-dangerous sooner and qualify for early release if he accepts the offer of castration. Does the state, when presenting the offender with the option of castration, intend him to choose this alternative? Does the state intend that the possibility of being released earlier from prison will induce him to accept castration? For McMillan, it seems that if the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’ then the offer is morally unacceptable. However, McMillan maintains that ‘the state need not intend that sex offenders are castrated’, and need not intend offenders to accept castration because of the prospect of early release (although, the state must foresee that some offenders probably consent for this reason).1 He concludes that castration may be ethically defensible provided other conditions are also met (in particular, that psychiatrists have good reasons for thinking that ‘castration will result in a person being able to reconstruct their agency’).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-595
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Medical Ethics
Volume40
Issue number9
Early online date30 Jul 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014

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Castration
offender
Prisoners
psychiatrist
prisoner
Prisons
correctional institution
Intentions
Sex Offenders
Psychiatry
human being
Offenders

Cite this

Offering surgical castration to sex offenders : the significance of the state's intentions. / Shaw, Elizabeth .

In: Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 40, No. 9, 09.2014, p. 594-595.

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

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abstract = "In his thought-provoking article, John McMillan argues that the moral acceptability of offering surgical castration to imprisoned sex offenders depends partly on the state's intentions when making the offer.1 McMillan considers the situation where the prisoner will be detained for public protection for as long as he is considered dangerous and where the state and the offender both know that he may become non-dangerous sooner and qualify for early release if he accepts the offer of castration. Does the state, when presenting the offender with the option of castration, intend him to choose this alternative? Does the state intend that the possibility of being released earlier from prison will induce him to accept castration? For McMillan, it seems that if the answer to either of these questions is ‘yes’ then the offer is morally unacceptable. However, McMillan maintains that ‘the state need not intend that sex offenders are castrated’, and need not intend offenders to accept castration because of the prospect of early release (although, the state must foresee that some offenders probably consent for this reason).1 He concludes that castration may be ethically defensible provided other conditions are also met (in particular, that psychiatrists have good reasons for thinking that ‘castration will result in a person being able to reconstruct their agency’).",
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