By Physician’s Weekly blogger, Skeptical Scalpel

Ryan King, a 28-year-old man from Brisbane, Australia, admitted in court that he castrated two men who had contacted him through a “eunuch-interest” website. He was not medically trained. The procedures were performed in a motel and a hostel.

He was arrested after the second patient (victim?) was admitted to a hospital for unspecified complications. ABC News Australia reported that when police searched King’s home, they found the genitalia of one man in King’s freezer. [For the record, “castration” involves removing a male’s testicles. The definition of “genitalia” encompasses the penis and scrotal contents. Because of the complexity of wound closure of penectomy, I doubt the operations involved the penis.]

King told the officers he didn’t think he had committed a crime because the men consented to the procedure and to the procedures being recorded and posted online. However, he did tell one of his patients that he had done 10 castrations. That was not true and suggests the informed consent discussion could have been inadequate.

King’s lawyer said he had a history of ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome for which he never was treated because he was too embarrassed.

King’s two patients submitted positive impact statements with comments such as the operation having been a “great benefit to his health and well-being.” And “I am eternally grateful to Ryan for enabling me to enjoy life.” The judge said “the younger man had wanted all of his sexual organs removed ever since he was a child because he ‘wanted to be a eunuch.’” King was sentenced to 3½ years in prison, but it was suspended because he had served almost 1 year in pre-sentence custody. He will be on probation for 3 years.

For latest news and updates

This story raises some questions. Where did King learn how to perform castration? On the Internet? What was the anesthetic? What instruments did he use? How did he stop the bleeding? Did he suture the skin? Did he know anything about sterile technique and sterilizing his tools?

An even bigger question is why did these two men have to seek treatment from Mr. King? This reminds me of days gone by here in the United States when women without means “sought out back-alley procedures or took matters in their own hands [by] inserting knitting needles and coat hangers into their vaginas, drinking chemicals or douching with lye. These methods resulted in medical emergencies and, in some cases, death.” Male castration and abortion are not exactly comparable, but there is some similarity.

Wanting to become a eunuch may be comparable to requesting sex reassignment surgery, which is being done in many American medical centers.

Australia has universal healthcare, and abortion is legal nationwide. If a man is of sound mind, understands the risks and irreversible nature of castration, and consents to the surgery, it should be provided in a clean and safe environment. The same is true of the United States, minus the universal healthcare.

 

Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chair and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last 9 years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog has had more than 3,700,000 page views, and he has over 21,000 followers on Twitter.