Aussie MP's medication 'turned him into sex deviant'

 

Neurolaw experts in America have been discussing whether medication could potentially affect a person to the point where their sexual tendencies "change" or manifest themselves in extreme ways.

In a discussion on ABC programme All in the Mind, Professor Jeanette Kennett of Macquarie University and Stephen Morse, a professor of law and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed the case of former Tasmanian MP Terence Martin, 58, who was convicted of unlawful intercourse with a 12-year-old in 2011.

Mr Martin pleaded guilty to the charge although at sentencing, evidence was brought forward in his mitigation that his Parkinson's medication - a dopamine agonist - had directly caused hypersexuality.

While taking this medication, it was claimed Mr Martin developed "a range of sexual interests that he had never had before": he spent [most of] his superannuation of pornography and prostitutes over about a 12-month period, and he engaged in "certain sorts of repetitive behaviours".

Professor Kennett said in the discussion that this hypersexuality as a result of this particular medication happens "reasonably often" and that there had been cases in the UK where this had been brought up as a legal defence.

When Mr Martin ceased taking the medication, those interests went away and it was therefore deemed that the medication-induced changes to his brain were likely to be responsible for the offending behaviour.

The judge in the case then ruled that Mr Martin should not serve any further sentence, and he was released on probation.

Professor Kennett commented that this was an area where neuroimaging could give more precise evidence of impairment, and predicted that it would be interesting in criminal cases as well as civil and administrative cases.

A similar case in 2000 involved a happily married 40-year-old man who was found guilty of child molestation and consequently kicked off a rehabilitation programme for sexual addiction after making advances at staff members and other clients.

The night before his sentencing the man, who was kept anonymous in media coverage, was rushed to hospital after suffering from a headache.

During a medical history check, doctors found that the man had suffered a head injury in 1984, and also had a brain tumour which may or may not have been related to the injury.

When doctors removed the tumour, the man's health returned; he completed a rehabilitation programme and was permitted to return home to his family.

Scientists concluded that the tumour interfered with the orbifrontal cortex, which helps to regulate social behaviour, and had "manifested sexual deviancy and paedophila". It was believed to be the first known case of paedophilia caused by a tumour.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and sexologists are often divided on the subject of paedophilia and its causes; some believe paedophiles are criminals, others have suggested it is an illness, while recently a more controversial opinion puts forward the idea that paedophilia is a sexual orientation.

Canadian psychologist and sex behaviour scientist Dr James Cantor, who was not involved in the tumour case, told The Independent that it was unlikely that the man's brain tumour would be treated as a cause of paedophilia today.

"Although these cases can be an important clue, I would not conclude that they represent someone who became paedophilic or became non-paedophilic again," he said.

"Rather, the evidence suggests that someone who was already paedophilic all along lost the ability to hide it after the injury, and then regained the ability to suppress it as the neurological problem was treated."



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