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Thursday, May 8, 1997
Medical, legal experts debate merits of castration
By MADELINE BARO
Associated Press Writer
DALLAS (AP) - Frightened victims-rights advocates tried desperately
last year to find a way to fulfill convicted child molester Larry
Don McQuay's request to be castrated.
McQuay swore he'd molested more than 200 children. He declared
he was "doomed to eventually rape then murder my poor little
victims to keep them from telling on me."
And he contended that castration would be the only way to ensure
he wouldn't molest another child.
Texas officials refused to pay for the surgery because it is
Today, a bill awaiting Gov. George W. Bush's signature would
make voluntary surgical castration an option for child molesters,
even though some medical and legal experts say it's ill-advised.
McQuay was paroled a year ago after serving six years for the
1989 assault of a 7-year-old San Antonio boy. He's been jailed
since August in San Antonio after being charged with indecency
with a child in other 1989 incidents.
California this year became the first state to require chemical
castration for repeat child molesters, who also can choose to
be surgically castrated. Montana and Georgia have passed their
own chemical castration laws and other states are considering
The bill introduced in the Texas Legislature by Sen. Teel Bivins,
R-Amarillo, is unique in making surgery the primary option.
With chemical castration, sex offenders are injected with drugs
to reduce the amount of the male hormone testosterone in their
system. With surgical castration, the testicles are removed.
Surgical castration isn't really more drastic than chemical,
said Gordon Cappelletty, who directs the adult and adolescent
sex offender treatment program at the California School of Professional
Psychology at Fresno, Calif.
Both are reversible.
"Even with surgical castration, a person could get a doctor
to prescribe synthetic testosterone or they can find it on the
black market," he said. "If a sexual offender really
wanted, there are ways around it."
To reverse chemical castration, a person could end the treatments.
When done by a qualified surgeon, castration is actually a
routine procedure, Cappelletty contends, like "having your
wisdom teeth pulled out."
Bivins drafted his bill after reviewing European studies showing
that child molesters who are surgically castrated have a small
rate of recidivism, about 2 percent to 3 percent.
Surgical castration has been used in countries like Denmark,
Finland, Norway, Sweden and Germany, although Denmark has switched
to chemical castration.
Cappelletty said the European studies involved a group known
as preferential pedophiles, who make up a small percentage of
the pedophile population.
A preferential pedophile prefers sexual relations with children
and has never had an adult sexual relationship.
A situational pedophile, however, has had adult sexual relationships,
but will have sex with children because of drugs or alcohol, or
because his needs are not otherwise being met.
"Castration for those individuals is pointless because
those people aren't engaging in sex with children for sexual reasons,"
Violent pedophiles are motivated by anger and rage, so castration
wouldn't help them, either.
"It certainly does work in very select cases," Cappelletty
said. "It is a very powerful tool for reducing recidivism,
but it's not the cure-all. It's not the panacea that the legislatures
see it as."
Bivins said he's written the bill "in a very narrow fashion"
to target the pedophiles who will benefit. He argues against complaints
that castration is cruel.
"Our response to that is what's more barbaric - allowing
this voluntary surgical treatment or knowing with (some) certainty
that an offender is going to molest another child?" he said.
"To me, the answer to that question is real simple."
Bush is expected to sign the bill into law after reviewing
it, said his spokeswoman, Karen Hughes.
Jay Jacobson, executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Texas, says although the bill makes it clear that volunteering
for castration wouldn't reduce a molester's sentence, it still
could be considered coercion.
"Inmates might think it'll have some kind of effect on
a parole board," Jacobson said.
The ACLU also objects to the bill's singling out child molesters.
The bill applies to convicted molesters over 21 years old.
The inmate must request the operation in writing, admit his guilt
and undergo psychological evaluation.
"Why shouldn't the Legislature make this available to
anyone who feels that this is a problem, whether they have been
arrested or not, whether they have been convicted or not, if they're
so concerned about public safety?" Jacobson said.
Rev. John A. Leies, director of the center for professional
ethics at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, said castration
could sometimes be justified under the beliefs of the Catholic
"I have problems with surgical castration, but I think
I could accept chemical castration as a needed defense in society,"
Leies said. Send
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