Oxford University’s Practical Bioethics Blog informs us that the tools of eugenics are alive and well in Europe–but for an entirely new reason all together. Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, is lobbying for the use of involuntary chemical castration for sex offenders in Poland. Arguing that the rights of victims should be placed above offenders, the Prime Minister has argued that the only suitable punishment in a case of incest is to perform non-voluntary chemical castration. The justification for this argument is simple in the Prime Minister’s view: sex offenders are not humans with moral standing but “creatures” who clearly do not have much if any at all.
While the practice of chemical castration is not new–it has been used by eugenists during the Third Reich–it would seem to have taken on new popularity in Poland and other European countries and (gasp) the United States, too. At least six of our own states use this as a method of punishment and/or deterrent for sex offenders using drugs like Depo-Provera and a law-enforcing needle.
Yet, it would seem that there are other ways of protecting innocent persons from sex offenders. While rates of recidivism are high, perhaps greater resources should be put into effective therapy programs, community based groups and resource centers for sex offenders released into their community.
Moreover, one cannot hold the view, ignoring basic human rights, that these human beings do not deserve certain protections such as the obligation of a physician to do no harm. Many of these drugs used in chemical castrations have serious side effects for men. For that reason alone, these drugs should not be forced on sex offenders. Instead, they should be given the choice if they are truly committed to remediating their behaviors and felt that such a treatment would be effective.
Only the voluntary use of such chemicals for sex offenders would acceptable–but only if they were fully informed of the risks of the drugs used and that such actions were not done in exchange for early release or shorter parole. The only way to ensure that sex offenders will not continue to commit the same crimes is to have their genuine commitment to remediating their behavior–not chemically inducing their bodies to have lesser desires to perform illegal and immoral acts.
Summer Johnson, PhD