An Attempt at Eliminating Pedophilia
From 1962 to 1972, two East Germans by the names of Dieter Müller, Fritz Roeder, and Hans Orthner put forth a surgical procedure that they theorized would cure pedophilia. Based on past studies done on rats, they planned to lesion the ventromedial hypothalamus in the brain. This has been shown to cause rats to become overweight and lose sexual interest. Eventually, they received permission from the government to test the procedure on repeat offenders. When these offenders were put on trial and convicted, they were given several options:
- Indefinite jail sentence
- Experimental brain surgery
Needless to say, most of them chose to have the brain surgery. They performed the stereotaxic lobotomy of the ventromedial hypothalamus by drilling through to the specific location, inserting an electrode, and running a current to destroy the VMH. The majority of the procedures done were unilateral, that is they only destroyed one side of the VMH. Only one or two were bilateral, where they destroyed both sides of the VMH.
After six months, they did a follow-up with the participants and found that pretty much all of them had no more pedophilia. Their procedure was labelled a success and was allowed to run by the government for many more years.
They then took their results and presented it at a psychology conference, where they were immediately condemned. Not because of any ethics issues, but because of scientific issues. Past VMH lesions performed on rats were bilateral and destroyed both sides. It was accepted that unilateral lesions had almost no effect. Their response? “We didn’t want our participants to become overweight.” They made a huge false assumption. The VMH affects both appetite and sexual desire in conjunction, not individually. If the participants did not become overweight, they probably didn’t actually have reduced/eliminated sexual desire.
There are two main reasons why they achieved the results they did. First, the offenders could have been lying so that they wouldn’t have to go to jail or face castration. Second, the placebo effect may have given the offenders the feeling that they were cured, but eventually it wore off.
A fellow by the name of Gunter Schmidt, after a grueling process, convinced the government to give him access to contact the participants. He conducted interview to determine if any change in the offenders’ behaviours actually happened. Almost all of the ‘cured’ pedophiles were still exhibiting pedophilia. After that study was carried out, the government immediately pulled the plug on the procedure.
So can VMH lesions cure pedophilia?
Yes. Bilateral lesions are proven to eliminate any sexual desire.
So why aren’t any bilateral VMH lesions done?
Ethics. It can destroy who a person really is, and although many people disagree, dignity is still given to offenders.