Chemical castration is the process of reducing a man’s testosterone levels using anti-androgen drugs in order to suppress his libido or sexual drive. The procedure is used to treat advanced prostate cancer and, in some cases, as a rehabilitative therapy for sex offenders. Unlike orchiectomy or surgical castration, where the male’s testicles are removed, the effect of chemical castration can be reversed over time when the treatment is discontinued.
Among the more common choices of drugs used in the procedure are medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA) and cyproterone acetate. These drugs can effectively lower testosterone levels in men, declining their sex drive and reducing their ability to be sexually stimulated.
Proponents of chemical castration often cite reduced relapse rates in criminal behavior as a major reason to use the process among sexual offenders. They believe that it is more ethical than long-term imprisonment and humane than surgical castration. Opponents, on the other hand, are concerned over the constitutionality of the procedure.
They believe that forcing someone to accept medical treatment violates that person’s constitutional rights as well as puts him at risk for developing side effects, like osteoporosis (due to reduced bone density) and cardiovascular disease (due to increased body fat and loss of muscle mass). Both sides have valid points, so this leads us into asking whether or not chemical castration is a good thing or a bad thing. To answer this question, let us take a look at the pros and cons of the procedure.
The Pros of Chemical Castration
1. It is safe and effective in reducing libido.
The drugs used in the procedure can dramatically reduce the amount of testosterone produced in the testicles and suppress sexual drive without eliminating a person’s ability to have sex. Men who are castrated chemically can still have sex – only that their desire to engage in sex often is removed.
2. It reduces recidivism rates.
As pointed out earlier, major studies conducted regarding chemical castration for sex offenders have noted dramatic decline in relapse rate. Based on some studies, recidivism rate for a second sexual offense is just around 2%, compare to 40% without the chemical treatment.
3. Imprisonment term is reduced.
In most cases, offenders who undergo chemical castration are released earlier into the society; their imprisonment term is reduced.
The Cons of Chemical Castration
1. It can have devastating health effects.
While the effects of the procedure can go away after the treatment is stopped, its side effects may continue over time. Among which are bone-density loss which is directly linked to osteoporosis and loss of muscle mass accompanied with increased body fat which is associated with heart disease. Other side effects include impotence, increased breast size, mood changes, anemia and hot flashes.
2. It might violate the human rights of criminals.
Opponents of the practice believe that forcing offenders to undergo the treatment, which may affect their sexual reproduction and make them incapable of having a sex drive, violates the constitutional rights of criminals. Some offenders though voluntarily choose to be chemically castrated than to have indefinite sentence.
3. It can get costly.
Since the effects of the drugs are temporary, repeated administration are required. In addition, sexual offenders will have to regularly follow up with their doctors, which may not always be feasible.
Chemical castration may be effective in reducing recidivism rate among sex offenders and may also be helpful in treating advanced prostate cancer; however, its side effects should also carefully considered. Individuals who volunteer to undergo the procedure should be well informed about its risks.