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The kindest cut? Surgical castration, sex offenders and coercive offers
  1. John McMillan
  1. Correspondence to Professor John McMillan, Bioethics Centre, Division of Health Sciences, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, Otago 9054, New Zealand; john.mcmillan{at}


The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) have conducted visits and written reports criticising the surgical castration of sex offenders in the Czech Republic and Germany. They claim that surgical castration is degrading treatment and have called for an immediate end to this practice. The Czech and German governments have published rebuttals of these criticisms. The rebuttals cite evidence about clinical effectiveness and point out this is an intervention that must be requested by the sex offender and cannot occur without informed consent. This article considers a number of relevant arguments that are not discussed in these reports but which are central to how we might assess this practice. First, the article discusses the possible ways in which sex offenders could be coerced into castration and whether this is a decisive moral problem. Then, it considers a number of issues relevant to determining whether sex offenders are harmed by physical castration. The article concludes by arguing that sex offenders should not be coerced into castration, be that via threats or offers, but that there is no reason to think that this is occurring in the Czech Republic or Germany. In some cases, castration might be useful for reconfiguring a life that has gone badly awry and where there is no coercion, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment are mistaken about this being degrading treatment.

  • Coercion
  • Government/Criminal Justice
  • Enhancement
  • Philosophical Ethics
  • Prisoners

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