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Surgical castration, Texas law and the case of Mr T
  1. William J Winslade
  1. Correspondence to Dr William J Winslade, Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX 775551311, USA; wwinslad{at}

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Persons who commit crimes involving sexual abuse of children exploit their victims in several ways. Sex offenders use their power and authority over vulnerable children to whom they have easy access. Teachers, coaches, clergy, family members and childcare workers have been exposed as sex offenders. The Pennsylvania State University football coach, Jerry Sandusky, is now in prison for his many crimes. The widespread cover up of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the USA and other countries is a horrendous scandal. It is not surprising that law enforcement, mental health professionals, victims and their families are outraged. It is no surprise that radical interventions such as chemical or surgical castration are a response to the public pressure to protect children from molestation.

I agree with Professor John McMillan's thoughtful discussion and nuanced analysis of surgical castration.1i He concludes that surgical castration of sex offenders is ethically permissible if these conditions are met:

  1. Castration should be requested by the sex offender.

  2. Informed consent (including positive and negative side effects) from a competent sex offender is required.

  3. Consent to castration must not be coerced via threats or inducements.

He also says that “castration might be useful for the reconfiguring of a life that has gone badly awry.”

To supplement his discussion I will describe a state law in Texas2 that permits voluntary surgical castration (orchidectomy) for repeat child molesters while they are incarcerated as …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i Surgical castration may refer either to testicular or pulpectomy if parts of the core of the testes are removed or orchidectomy in which the testes are fully removed.

  • ii The following information about Mr T is based on my personal observations and experience acquired through monitoring him since 1998. Mr T has consented to the publication of this information and has read and approved the text insofar as it relates to him.

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