Devil\'s Advocate

Back in the early part of the year, I made the contrarian argument in favor of paying for erectile dysfuntion drugs via Medicare (assuming, of course, that Medicare has to exist and that it is good policy). Well, in related news, people of all political stripes are up in arms because Medicaid is paying for former sex offenders to get Viagra, et al., as well. Indeed, New York and Virginia have quickly passed laws to close this loophole, with Georgia not far behind. Now, when something gets bipartisan support, it's enough to make me take a second look. Here is psychologist Laura Berman, Ph.D, litgating for Lucifer:

In my clinical experience, healthy sexual encounters are actually a key part of a sex offender's successful recovery. They teach the sex offender to refocus his desire on an appropriate subject. Some convicted sex offenders have been in treatment for decades, with no recidivism. To deny them access to a normal sex life -- as refusing them treatment for erectile dysfunction would do -- would be counterproductive. Rather than aiding and abetting a sex offender, it's more likely that Viagra is being prescribed to those in a healthy, consensual relationship who are experiencing erectile dysfunction.

Politicians need to be careful when they start making decisions for physicians. Treating sexual criminals is not a uniform practice that can be codified. Denying some past sex offenders medication to control the group as a whole is unwise. As a result, public funding for a drug like Viagra is, ironically, in line with the public interest.

I suppose that is the best argument one could come up with. Decide for yourself if it's good enough.

(Via Kevin, MD)

Update: Eric Cowperthwaite has more:

But, I think there is another, and more important, argument we need to consider. In our society, we have a principle that once someone has paid their price for their crime they are no longer to be "punished" in other ways. We have, already, through laws such as Megan's Law, made a mockery of this principle with sex offenders...

My wife and I have discussed just this issue, with me taking the con position against Megan's Law and similar such practices throughout the country and my wife taking the pro position. My argument is one of ethics and principles and her's is the utilitarian argument that says protecting women and children has to come first and these particular criminals are much more likely to offend again than others. My normal response is that, if they can't be "cured" and will commit similar crimes in the future, we should lock them up for the rest of their life or execute them. But, we should not pretend they have paid for their crime and then continue to punish them, nor should we enable a lynch mob type situation.

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Actually Scott, I think the

Actually Scott, I think the argument is not that this is a "right", but rather Trent is making the utilitarian argument that treatment is a better means of preventing recidivism.

I am making the argument that you don't punish ex post facto and that once someone is punished, adding on additional punishments is wrong. I have no problem with locking these guys up for life, or executing them (I think their crimes are, in many cases, heinous enough to deserve execution). I do have a problem with changing the rules when we get a whim, using the "it's for the children" argument, and punishing them yet again.

One problem with your

One problem with your Devil's advocate argument: Viagra is not 'more likely...prescribed to those in a healthy, consensual relationship.' As someone who works in the Medicaid system I can tell you that the assumption that only those who need a medication get that medication isn't just wrong, it's naive in the extreme. Abuse of the program, especially as it relates to pharmaceuticals is rampant and, due to various state and federal guidelines, next to impossible to eradicate. There are doctors who will prescribe any medication for any patient simply becasue they want the patient out of their office. Even worse are the ones who have an 'arrangement' with a particular pharmacy or manufacturer. These problems are, unfortunately, not minimal in the least. they are swiftly becoming a huge portion of the Medicaid budget. Especially when you figure in the people who have to do the research necessary to even try to get fraud and abuse handled. I agree that we shouldn't punish people who have served their time in prison but last I checked, there was nothing in the Bill of Rights about a 'healthy sex life.' If there was, there are thousands of people out there whose rights have been violated. Should we send them Viagra too?

Viagra should be mandatory

Viagra should be mandatory for aged men in nursing homes since it helps to keep them from falling out of bed.

Well, my trackback appears

Well, my trackback appears to have bombed out (ugh). So, here's the link to my post on this same topic.

Arguing for Viagra for Sex Offenders

Excerpt: I think there is another, and more important, argument we need to consider. In our society, we have a principle that once someone has paid their price for their crime they are no longer to be "punished" in other ways.

Arguing for Viagra for Sex

Arguing for Viagra for Sex Offenders
I think there is another, and more important, argument we need to consider. In our society, we have a principle that once someone has paid their price for their crime they are no longer to be "punished" in other ways.

What does taking new-fangled

What does taking new-fangled drugs have to do with a "normal" sex life?

It's certainly a compelling

It's certainly a compelling argument but not in line with our cultural traditions.

Despite the "Wild 60s" and the "Anything Goes 90s", we're still sexual prudes and especially so with our children. It's perfectly natural to want to shelter our kids and maybe to keep off dating a few years. But that desire will inevitably lead to an attempt to push that parental instinct into the political sphere.

Even a medical practitioner's first instinct would be disgust at this kind of news. But rationally, we must delegate judgement to the individuals in the justice system and the medical profession who are at least rational enough to give sexual offenders a second chance.

After all, we should extend to sexual offenders the same cultural forgiveness extended to drunk drivers, wife abusers, deadbeat dads, and murderers.