April 2, 2006

"Assuming that the victims consented to this ... that doesn't make it a defense."

"We can't have people who are not medical doctors lopping off limbs and other body parts."

18 comments:

CB said...

Looks like an open-and-shut case, legally. NC has a statute on point:

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-29. Castration or other maiming without malice aforethought

If any person shall, on purpose and unlawfully, but without malice aforethought, cut, or slit the nose, bite or cut off the nose, or a lip or an ear, or disable any limb or member of any other person, or castrate any other person, or cut off, maim or disfigure any of the privy members of any other person, with intent to kill, maim, disfigure, disable or render impotent such person, the person so offending shall be punished as a Class E felon.

and a state Supreme Court decision (State v. Bass, involving severing fingers for insurance money) holding that, following the common-law offense of mayhem, consent of the victim is not a defense.

BTW, the language of Blackstone's definition of mayhem is great:
"Mayhem is properly defined to be the violently depriving another of the use of such of his members as may render him less able in fighting, either to defend himself, or to annoy his adversary. Therefore the cutting off, or disabling, or weakening a man's hand or finger, or striking out his eye or foretooth, or depriving him of those parts the loss of which in all animals abates his courage, are mayhems." emphasis added.

Abraham said...

Ha! Best. Euphemism. Ever.

CatoRenasci said...

An appalling story, but not surprising if one has even passing acquaintence with the 'body modification' subculture - just surf the 'net for it.

The Founders, whatever their differences on policy, did not regard liberty as equivalent to license.

Too often, I think, those who have abandoned traditional religiously-based morality (whether they are serious believers or not) for moral relativism and postmodernism do conflate license with liberty.

Among those with strong minds, the intellectual position of moral relativism may not translate into license or libertinism, but I think a fair case can be made that things such as this represent more a logical extension of moral relativism than a reductio ad absurdam on it.

chuck b. said...

Some people are into weird shit and they're going to keep doing weird shit whether there are laws against it or not. And I'm not arguing there shouldn't be laws against some weird shit, or this weird shit in particular. Just wanted to post a tautology.

While there's no defense against the state in this case, the "victim's" consent would be a defense in an action brought by the "victim", no?

CB said...

chuck b,
I don't think so, in this case. Generally, consent is a defense to a tort claim. If you and I agree to arm wrestle and I sprain your wrist, consent would be a defense against a battery suit. However, in this case, the act itself is unlawful, and one cannot consent to an unlawful act. Some examples: statutory rape, physician-assisted suicide. In fact, I think the castrators and the castratees can both be charged under this statute.

Gaius Arbo said...

The good news is that at least 6 lunatics won't be breeding.

CatoRenasci said...

CB: think of the castratee (castrato?) as an accessory before the fact and missing an accessory after the fact.

Palladian said...

They may have already gotten breeding out of the way, Gaius Arbo.

When I was in graduate school, I had an acquaintance who visited a "dungeon" run by two men (one of whom worked at a Roman Catholic church). There was no surgery going on there, but hearing about the whole scenario always made me uncomfortable, especially the extent to which these people considered it part of their "sexuality". I've always hated how the "leather community" and the "BDSM community" attached itself to gay rights, as if the need for sexual accessories was as innate and natural as being gay. I've been chided for believing that all the sexual "subcultures" should not be included in the pursuit of gay equality; it makes me feel a bit like Betty Friedan in her belief that the "lavender menace" of associating lesbianism with feminism was harmful to gaining a broader acceptance of feminism. I point out to my friends that their acceptance of the logical extension of gay rights to every conceivable sexual subculture and deviancy is virtually identical to the arguments of anti-gay people, that gay rights is a slippery slope towards bestiality and consensual castration. It's very difficult to resolve my conservative-libertarian views with the feeling that some activities should not be promoted or accepted by an sort of society.

Ann Althouse said...

This is doing far less than a sex change operation. So what's so terrible if the person consents? The answer is in that original quote: it's not done by a doctor. This is about protecting the territory of the medical profession (unless you want to outlaw sex change operations too).

I would say let these people have their free expression, but I think the real problem is the danger that someone who wants this done to him is likely to be mentally impaired and in need of paternalistic protection from the state. But I thought we were moving away from calling sexual preferences mental illnesses.

Getting castrated is an incredibly stupid choice, but people make stupid choices all the time and we don't try to save them. Here we're apparently trying to save them (or more precisely other people like them) by prosecuting them.

Abraham said...

So what's so terrible if the person consents? The answer is in that original quote: it's not done by a doctor.

I would also add that if the person is removing a limb, they are going to be signficantly disabled. I guess that would be okay, as long as they were barred for life from drawing any related health insurance benefits,government assistance, or handicapped parking. But I don't foresee that happening, so then as long as society is expected to assist the disabled, we ought to have a right to object to intentional disabling.

Synova said...

Men get legally castrated all the time. Or at least occasionally. What is a sex change operation after all? And that's legal as well as voluntary.

CB said...

Professor,
It may not be terrible, but it is illegal. You say you would let them have their free expression. What exactly do you mean by "free expression," and are you arguing that the statute should be ignored? repealed? declared unconstitutional?

How to square this statute with sex-change operations (which don't seem to be illegal in NC) is another issue. Maybe they very narrowly construe the intent part of the statute.

Also, the castration statute does not mention medical licensing, so it would be just as illegal if a doctor did it.

CB said...

Professor,
Now that I see it, my post above looks a little confrontational and snarky--I didn't mean it that way, & would like to hear what you have to say on that topic.

Palladian said...

"Men get legally castrated all the time."

Yeah, it's called holy matrimony. Bada-bing!


"What is a sex change operation after all? And that's legal as well as voluntary."

The difference here is obvious: "sex change" surgeries are done by medical doctors, in medical settings, not by some sleazeballs in a basement. These guys are lucky that they didn't kill anyone.

Heck, I think piercing anything should have to be done in a doctor's office by medical professionals if it is to be done at all. Perhaps that would discourage people from disfiguring themselves.

Ann Althouse said...

CB: I'm just examining the ideas. I think it probably should be illegal and not just because there happens to currently be a statute making it prosecutable in this instance. Suppose there were no statute, would you support enacting a statute to make this illegal, or would you say, these people are idiots but leave them alone?

Gaius Arbo said...

I think the people who carried this out are dangerous. The people who volunteered are pathetic.

Julian Morrison said...

Anything mutually voluntary isn't criminal. If the law says different, it's mistaken.

David Blue said...

Ann Althouse: "Suppose there were no statute, would you support enacting a statute to make this illegal, or would you say, these people are idiots but leave them alone?"

I'd say leave them alone. If it is the business of the law to prevent people from being fools, the law will be too busy.