General Question

nikipedia's avatar

If a brain tumor caused someone to become a pedophile, would you hold him responsible for his actions?

Asked by nikipedia (27692points) September 24th, 2008

This happened a while ago. As soon as the tumor was removed, he stopped. Do you hold him responsible? Equally as responsible as someone without the tumor? Punish him? Why?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

35 Answers

sundayBastard's avatar

No, but the tumor would have to appear befoe a judge.

sundayBastard's avatar

That’s just like me slipping you a little LSD and you killing someone in a crazed anti-christ ritual thing-a-ma-bob. It’s not your fault. or mine…hee hee. it’s the LSD’s.

Nimis's avatar

I don’t think he chose to have a tumor?

tinyfaery's avatar

I’d say no, but that would allow for all types of diseases and physical abnormalities to be considered a “get out of jail free” card. Then we’d have to determine where the line of culpability lies. This is a tough one.

MacBean's avatar

People should not be punished for their illnesses. They should be given help to get better.

tWrex's avatar

I would have to know more about the tumor and where/how it affected the person. If it could be proven by multiple doctors – not from the same practice – that the person did these heinous acts because of his/her illness then I would have to say he/she should be held responsible for their acts, but at a lesser degree. More of a probation with check-ins type thing, just to keep track and make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.

And while I agree with MacBean that they should be given help, I also agree with tinyfaery because then everyone would use a get out of jail free card. The I’m wired wrong just like that other guy, argument would become very prevalent. It’s definitely a sticky situation. Really good question. I’m almost at 1000. That’s super sweet!

Why? Well because there still needs to be punishment. A sense of justice needs to come about if nothing more than for the victims. Just my opinion, but I don’t think probation would really be that big of a deal.

augustlan's avatar

It may explain the behavior, but it does not excuse the behavior. There should still be a consequense, though maybe a lighter one. The tumor should be considered a mitigating circumstance.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

No, I would not hold him responsible for his actions.
Feel bad for his victims, but punishment will do no good in this situation.

JackAdams's avatar

I agree with aneedleinthehayy, completely.

rss's avatar

In the US there is the “justification” defense in criminal law. Example: killing in self-defense. No one disputes that person A killed person B, but because his behavior was justified (assuming it is per the definition) he is not sentenced.

I think a medical condition, like the tumor, might be able to use this defense – but it would depend widely on the circumstances, and probably come down to expert testimony about the actual effects of the tumor etc, since not everyone with a tumor becomes a pedophile.

In general, if there is an obvious treatment that will cure the person, I see no reason for punishment. I also think that as we get a better understanding of brain functions and as more mental illnesses (or related actions) are explained and treatable we are going to have to rethink how useful our current system is. Maybe we will rethink our concept of responsibility as well.

ckinyc's avatar

They should put the tumor in jail!

JackAdams's avatar

I also would not hold HER responsible for HER actions, either.

I’m wondering, is there any case history on this? Has anyone acted as a pedophile, who was later proven to have acted as they did, under the influence of a brain tumor?

It would certainly be an interesting case to review.

deaddolly's avatar

Twrex and Augustian said it perfectly.

SuperMouse's avatar

Even if he couldn’t control his behavior, he still understood that it was wrong. The fact that he began “secretly visiting child pornography websites” tells me that. At that second, the alarm bells should have sounded and he should have sought help. He must be held responsible for his actions.

Snoopy's avatar

If said person hurt my kid, I would still want him to leave this life… my hand. Brain tumor and all.

nikipedia's avatar

@JackAdams: Yes, and a lay article documenting the case is linked to in the initial question. Here’s an article from a neurology journal. I can send you the full text if you have trouble accessing it.

@tWrex: What else would you like to know about the tumor? In this particular case, it was in the right orbitofrontal cortex, a brain region responsible for moral decision-making and understanding appropriate social behavior. Here’s an MRI image: But does it matter? Isn’t anyone who repeatedly does something extremely socially deviant mentally ill by definition?

JackAdams's avatar

Thanks! I saw the lay article, of course, but I was hoping for the one that delves into the scientific aspects of the case.

JackAdams's avatar

@nikipedia: You know, I’m wondering if someone with multiple personalities like Sybil, could have a personality that was a pedophile, and how The Collective would respond to that.

Perhaps such would best be answered, as a separately-posed question?

Harp's avatar

isn’t our whole concept of responsibility predicated on the assumption that we have the capacity to inhibit our harmful impulses? That inhibition has a well-documented neurological basis, it’s not just a product of abstract thought. In a person with a functional inhibitory system, there is a choice of how to behave, and that choice will take consequences into account. But in a person who’s neurological apparatus governing inhibition is damaged, there is no choice, no decision to be made, no factors to weigh. There is effectively no moral agency in this case, and so there can be no responsibility.

For comparison’s sake, would someone with Tourette syndrome be responsible for the offense caused to others by her uncontrollable cursing? She knows she curses; she knows it causes offense. But her brain can’t not cause her to curse. What would be an appropriate punishment?

The punishment we dole out for criminal offenses has three purposes: to act as a deterrent, to protect society, and to satisfy our sense of retribution. In the case we’re looking at here, the first two purposes are clearly not in play. It comes down entirely to this: Is it proper to inflict suffering on someone who has no moral agency to assuage the pain of one or more members of society?

We can all understand the pain of the victims and their families, and humans naturally want to identify a culprit to hold responsible for that pain. But is there always someone to hold responsible? If we can’t find a good responsible party, is it OK to just appoint a likely looking stand-in?

richardhenry's avatar

He should be moved and have his identity changed. Start fresh, and keep an eye on him. If an illness was genuinely the cause of his actions, he shouldn’t be punished.

Snoopy's avatar

@richardhenry: Well then open up the gates of prisons everywhere. I am sure that there are several prisoners who had mental health issues which contributed to their criminal activity…..


Harp's avatar

But in those cases, inprisonment also serves to protect society. Theirs is not an operable condition.

Snoopy's avatar

If someone commited a crime….even if caused by a disease process….they commited a crime that is punishable. Especially if the problem isn’t curable, the person should be isolated to protect society. He should also receive therapy and medical care.

It is all well and good to talk about things in a vague way…..I can tell you that since having children of my own, my opinons have changed on alot of things-sharply.

Imagine this pedophile becoming your next door neighbor. Would you really want this person living by you…..and as richard henry implies….w/out anyone knowing anything about the history?

I appreciate and respect everyone’s opinon on the issue…...but I really find it difficult to believe that anyone who would think about and envision a person violating their own child would have as much compassion for the person.

tWrex's avatar

@nikipedia We’ll I think I’d like to know how the tumor felt about the whole situation. If he really is the culprit, then hang him by his tumorness and let’s be done with it!

Seriously though, I’m not sure what else I’d want to know. I just know that I’d need to know without a doubt that the tumor was the reason for the action. And while your definition is correct, using a condition as a scapegoat for ones actions is a pandora’s box. Hence the reason I offered up my suggestion of conviction, but with something only as serious as probation so that the said individual can, in fact, be monitored for these conditions. I think that is more than fair, especially given the fact that in the other thread on this I called for every single last ones death.

@Snoopy I totally agree with you 100%. I would have a lot harder time being pissed at this person though if it did turn out true that he was sick due to an operable condition. I don’t think the anger would be lessened. I just think that it would be more confusing to me, because I would feel like something really and truly could have been done to help this bastard before he did these things, but no one did or even possibly knew. And no I wouldn’t want him living next door. Empathizing with his plight and understanding that his actions may not have fully been his is one thing, but forgiveness on that level is totally different.
I woke up to being over 1000! WooHoo!

richardhenry's avatar

@Snoopy: In cases where the criminal has been ‘cleared’, I think rehabilitation is a good option. I’m not talking about simply letting them go, I’m talking about tagging them, keeping an eye on them, and having them regularly consult with a specialist who can spot signs of a relapse.

Plus, this case isn’t the average mental health case; the cause of his problem was rectified when the tumor was removed. If for example, a schizophrenic murderer had been cleared after a course of treatment, they should be dealt with differently, and giving them so much of a leash isn’t appropriate.

Harp's avatar

So this guy has an impulse to do harm but is physically unable to inhibit that impulse.

The mother of the victim then has an impulse to do harm. We can all understand that impulse, but does that mean that it shouldn’t be inhibited?

In Iraq, if a young woman is raped, her family members are likely to seek revenge…..on her. We look at this and shake our heads at the injustice, wondering how they could let such unreasoned impulses cause them to do such a thing. But why isn’t it OK to allow this since it satisfies their sense of retribution and allows them an outlet for their anger?

JackAdams's avatar

To see a valid (but fictional) “discussion” of the topic of how the human brain (as a physical organ) can influence and cause a person to do things that s/he would never normally do, please get a copy of The Terminal Man, which is on DVD, as a movie starring George Segal.

The novel was written by a doctor.

wundayatta's avatar

I’m sorry Harp, but you don’t understand the purpose of our criminal justice system. What you are talking about is a reform system. American don’t want reform. They want justice, and that means punishing the bad guys. It doesn’t matter that the form of punishment makes those bad guys more likely to commit further crimes, rather than less. It doesn’t matter than punishment dehumanizes people, and makes them part of a permanent underclass. Justice must be done! The American people believe this so much, that they are willing to fund the largest prison system in the world. Never mind that this costs so much more than rehabilitation programs. Punishment must be meeted out, so justice can be served. There is no price we are unwilling to pay for justice.

And that means, at least in the US, that a person who is a pedophile due to a brain tumor will be punished. Someone has to be punished. Why not the person in the body that committed the crime?

Not so many months ago, on another social networking site, I raised a similar issue. I have personal experience with being of two different minds! I was in one mind, where I was mean to everyone, and constantly irritable, and I wanted to die. Then, I was given drugs, and soon thereafter, I was looking back at the way I had been, and while I remembered doing everything, and I remembered it making sense at the time, I could not believe I would have done that, and I could never make the choice to behave that way in my current frame of mind.

I asked who was I? The bad guy, or the current guy? Harp said “both,” which was really helpful. But here’s what weirded me out: it was a pill that made the difference. The difference between good daloon and bad daloon is a pill. What that pill did, was to literally change my thoughts. It changed the contents of my thoughts.

Well, in the not too distant future, we’re going to discover how to manipulate people’s thinking with chemicals in a much more specific manner. When we do that, then where does responsibility go? Where does personality go?

I behave in one way with one kind of chemical balance in my brain. I behave another way after that chemical balance has been adjusted. I think this is very troubling. Not just because it suggests that I’m driven by factors external to my will, but also because it opens the door for secret mental manipulation of individuals, if you can find a way to get them to ingest the proper chemicals. It is very troubling. The case of the pedophile with the brain tumor is equally troubling.

Harp's avatar

There is an appealing simplicity to that isn’t there? Just lock ‘em up and call it justice.

justus2's avatar

No he shouldn’t be punished

Zuma's avatar

@daloon “American don’t want reform. They want justice, and that means punishing the bad guys. It doesn’t matter that the form of punishment makes those bad guys more likely to commit further crimes, rather than less. It doesn’t matter than punishment dehumanizes people, and makes them part of a permanent underclass. Justice must be done! The American people believe this so much, that they are willing to fund the largest prison system in the world. Never mind that this costs so much more than rehabilitation programs. Punishment must be meted out, so justice can be served. There is no price we are unwilling to pay for justice.”

What Americans want and what justice is are two different things. Punishment is not justice. Justice corrects behavior, it does not demean and destroy people. Justice humanizes, it does not dehumanize. It reconciles, it does not alienate. It recovers the wayward soul and brings him back into the fold; it does not search out and find fault in order to cast people out, push people down, hold them down or grind them into the dirt. This confusion of punishment with justice stems from the deep racism of our society; it’s inability to welcome and embrace the newcomer, the poor, the uneducated and unwashed “other,” and, least of all, the critic—the person who has already been through the mill once before and who is not going to sit still for more of it.

What you describe is institutionalized pathology, and not everyone is for it. It is part of that national reactionary hangover that makes people to object to empathy in it’s judges. It is that complete disregard for humanity that can kill a million people in a fit of pique in Iraq. It is what gave us Abu Ghraib, and it is what is turning us into a straw giant bereft of moral authority in the world. We have become an empire of gun nuts and thugs.

I think I finally know where this pathology comes from: Our nation’s uniquely Protestant enthusiasm for corporal punishment, and all the squalid violence that seems to come from it on both sides of the law. This idea that people deserve to be dehumanized is pathological, belonging more to the Nazis than to any civilized people.

Daloon, your attitudes toward punishment, your recent mental split, your depression, your feelings of not being able to give or accept praise, your feelings of not being worthy, and your difficulty giving or receiving unconditional love are all classic signs of someone who was harshly punished as a child. From what I am seeing here, I would guess, very harshly punished. Punitive child-rearing practices, especially those aimed at breaking the child’s will, were a particularly ardent among the Puritans, whose theology and general outlook were all shaped by anxieties and feelings of “sinfulness” and unworthiness all stemming from and reinforced by harsh childhood punishment.

wundayatta's avatar

Well, if I was punished, it was either mental punishment or I’ve forgotten it. My therapist thinks that it was abandonment that happened before I could talk (when my brother was born), although I am skeptical of that theory, too. However, I’m leaning towards an explanation that my illness results from a chemical imbalance, based on genetic predispositions, not a result of early punishment. If it had been that, then I probably would have gotten sick much earlier in my life.

As I hope you know, @Zuma, I was speaking about what I perceive the majority of Americans to believe, not what I believe. Most Americans keep on electing legislators who vow to ramp up the punishment of criminals. It is part of the justice system. So most Americans equate punishment with justice.

Zuma's avatar

@daloon I’ve been in several forums where you have advocated taken a hard line in favor of punishment in the purely retributional sense you describe above—in which you seem to be insisting that punishment is justice. You may recall a couple conversations with Frenchiette way back on Askville, one about prison and another about torture; and one more recently about the woman who killed someone while texting and driving, just to name a few. But I am also thinking of several times when you’ve mentioned not being able to give and receive compliments, your difficulties giving and receiving unconditional love, your Puritan upbringing, and the moralistic streak that causes you to be so hard on yourself, etc.

I don’t doubt the chemical imbalance hypothesis, but any such imbalance is going to cause a fracture where the stress points and fracture lines already are in your personality. From what I have been reading (see link above) it doesn’t take much. Not remembering is par for the course, especially if the punishment was done in infancy before you could talk. And it may have been affecting you all along, just not in such a dramatic way. I had to mention it because it is fresh in my mind, and so many parts of the constellation seem to be present all at once. If it is true, and if it could help you to excavate this, it would be remiss of me not to say anything.

As for what Americans think justice is, it depresses me to think that you may be right. If so, it is pathology and needs to be denounced as such. We have never had a justice system in this country. What we have is a legal system.

HungryGuy's avatar

If a person doesn’t have control of his mind, it’s not just to punish him per-se. But society still has a right and obligation to restrain him in some sort of institutionalized housing to protect others from his behavior.

If doctors concur that the tumor was the cause of his criminal behavior, and the tumor was removed successfully, then he should be declared innocent of criminal charges.

As for civil charges, payments due his victims, I suppose that’s a question of liability. One is generally liable for accidental injury to others, so I suppose there’s some liability involved.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther