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Charles Foster

Fellow of Exeter College, University of Oxford.

Castration and conscience

A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal (Grubin D,
Beech A, BMJ 2010; 340:c74) discusses the efficacy and ethics of chemical
castration for sex offenders.  

Its efficacy is not in doubt. Recidivism rates of less than
5% over long periods are consistently reported. The expected rate, absent ‘treatment’,
is 50% or more.

But is it treatment? And if it is not, should doctors
participate in it?

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Easing the passing: Death booths, misrepresentations and the ‘Ugh factor’

Death is in the air. To stop us being engulfed by the ‘silver
tsunami’,  Martin Amis urges the
construction of euthanasia booths, and encourages the elderly to go to them for
a martini, a medal and a pharmaceutical nudge into the void. Terry Pratchett
talks cosily about ‘shaking death by the hand’ as he sits on his lawn, Tallis
on his IPod, drinking some modern Socratic hemlock washed down with vintage
brandy. He and his backers in the euthanasia industry shrewdly propose death
tribunals who, having heard evidence about individual cases, would sign or
withhold a death warrant. Such tribunals, they say, would obviate the risk that
vulnerable people might opt unacceptably for euthanasia. The opinion polls
consistently indicate considerable public support for a change in the law
against assisted suicide. The opponents of assisted dying are caricatured as
reactionary bigots, probably fuelled by otiose, antediluvian religious
prejudice: people who care more about some dogma of the sanctity of life than
about pain, fear, despair and autonomy. The crusade for assisted dying is a
campaign by the modern and enlightened against the mediaeval  and  benighted.

Read More »Easing the passing: Death booths, misrepresentations and the ‘Ugh factor’