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Making the cut: analytical and empirical bioethics
  1. Dominic Wilkinson, Associate Editor

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This issue of the journal includes papers across both analytical and empirical schools within bioethics.

In his feature article, ‘The kindest cut? Surgical castration, sex offenders and coercive offers’, John McMillan asks whether surgical castration can be ethically provided as medical treatment for sex offenders (see page 583, Editor's choice). While surgical castration has previously been available in a number of European countries, in recent years it has only been available in the Czech Republic and in Germany. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture has attacked the Czech and German governments for engaging in degrading treatments. McMillan focuses on the nature of the relationship between psychiatrist and the detainee. Is the option of surgical castration (with the chance of earlier release) a non-coercive ‘offer’, or is the option of non-castration (with the likelihood of continued detention) a coercive threat? For McMillan, the nature of the intent is important, but he argues that the Czech and German approaches to surgical castration are not necessarily coercive, and can be a component of ethically praiseworthy self-transformation.

Responding to McMillan, Alan Wertheimer and Franklin Miller focus on the question of coercion (see page 592). They argue that the offer of castration is only coercive if psychiatrists or the state threaten to violate sex-offenders’ rights, or forego an obligation to the prisoner if he declines castration. On their view, such offers are not coercive, though they note that this does not settle the key ethical questions.

Jesper Ryberg and Thomas Petersen, by contrast, argue both that offers can be coercive and that coercive offers could be morally legitimate - where there is a significant societal benefit (see page 593). They suggest …

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