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Surgical castration, coercion and ethics
  1. Jesper Ryberg,
  2. Thomas S Petersen1,2
  1. 1Department of Philosophy & Science Studies, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
  2. 2Department of Philosophy, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jesper Ryberg, Department of Philosophy & Science Studies, Roskilde University, PO Box 260, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark; ryberg{at}

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John McMillan's detailed ethical analysis concerning the use of surgical castration of sex offenders in the Czech Republic and Germany is mainly devoted to considerations of coercion.1 This is not surprising. When castration is offered as an option to offenders and, at the same time, constitutes the only means by which these offenders are likely to be released from prison, it is reasonable—and close to the heart of modern medical ethics—to consider whether the offer involves some kind of coercion. However, despite McMillan's seemingly careful consideration of this question, it appears to us that the matter is more complicated than his approach to it suggests.

The first thing that adds to the complexity of the discussion concerns the alternative for sex offenders who do not accept the offer of castration. As mentioned, it is likely that these offenders will be kept in prison. McMillan even underlines that they may be detained ‘indefinitely’. And the response report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) to the Czech Government also emphasises—as part of the Czech Criminal Code—the possibility of ‘security detention’ that will last for as long as required for ‘the protection of society’.2 Suppose, …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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