February 29, 2012

Australians: Proposed paraphilia diagnoses 'dangerously circular'

Proposed expansions of the sexual disorders in the DSM are getting negative attention Down Under, with critics worried about the blurring of lines between bad behavior and mental illness, according to an article in today's Sydney Morning Herald.

The article in Australia's fourth-largest newspaper focuses on the expansion of pedophilia to include a hebephelic subtype and the placement of a "so-called paraphilic coercive disorder" (rape-proneness) in the upcoming manual's appendix as a proposed condition meriting further study.

Most mental health professionals in Australia use the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic nomenclature, enshrined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), rather than the International Classification of Diseases (IMD), the international standard promulgated by the World Health Organization.

Australian psychiatrists and psychologists worry that the sexual disorder expansions will pave the way for more civil detention, in violation of the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or, conversely, may be used by sex offenders to minimize or avoid legal punishment.

Indeed, in a case currently in the news in Melbourne, a well-known chef who sexually exploited vulnerable 13- and 14-year-old girls has introduced expert testimony on hebephilia as a mitigating factor. At a presentencing hearing, a defense-retained psychiatrist testified that Simon Humble suffered from hebephilia and would find prison difficult.

In addition to quoting clinicians and scholars in Australia, reporter Amy Corderoy reached across the Pacific to discuss the issue with your faithful blogger, a recent guest in Queensland; her article links back to this blog.