Afternoon Inquisition

AI: What’s in a Blame?

If you haven’t had a chance to play with the Les Paul Google Doodle today, check it out. It’s pretty cool!

Okay, so anyway . . . I was going to embed the video at this link, but WordPress kicked my ass. But the video is about a gay man named Kirk Murphy, who committed suicide recently. Thirty some years ago, he was involved in “de-sissification” treatment therapy at UCLA, and his family is saying the treatment is directly responsible for his death.

Thoughts? Despite the atrocious nature of the outmoded treatment, is the doctor responsible? Is this a case where blame should be laid at all?

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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  1. 30 years is a really long time ago. A lot of traumatic events can happen in that space. While I’m no fan of what medicine was trying to do to gays back in the dark ages of modern psychology, I find it really hard to link this with that. Before I can even consider the possibility of the UCLA treatment being a possible cause of his suicide, I’m going to need some evidence that other participants are having similar troubles far more often than chance.

  2. I agree that it’s not possible to tag this on the “therapy”. But I’m confident the cause of the therapy is also the cause of his suicide, the crappy assed attitude that makes gays feel unwelcome and broken.

  3. You forgot to link part 1:
    It gives a lot more background on this horrible story. Also, there’s going to be a part 3 tonight.

    I don’t know about “blame.” If I’m going to blame anyone, I’m going to blame society, for being so god damned rigid, unforgiving, and cruel to people who fall outside of their made-up “norms.”
    Also, what they did to this guy is abuse, plain and simple. Fucking emotional abuse. If you don’t think that could affect someone thirty years later, you are clueless about abuse.

  4. I don’t doubt that the “treatment” given to this poor guy was part of what caused him to take his own life, but I would be hesitant to say that it was the only thing. Likely, it was a combination of factors, including his past trauma and current struggle with a society that won’t accept him for who he is. tragic.

  5. First, the guy was not a doctor. George A. Rekers is a homophobic bigot.

    he is responsible for a great deal of anti-gay bigotry.

    Child abuse can lead to life-long suicidality. What was done to this poor child was child abuse.

    It is completely plausible to me that his suicide was a direct result of the abuse that he received from Rekers.

  6. I have to agree with most of the other people here. If this therapy was the sole cause of his suicide, he would have committed suicide long ago, either during or soon after the therapy.

    If there isn’t anything recent that happened to trigger suicide, the most likely cause is some form of depression. Some people can be quite good at hiding it. All it would take is one bad episode (which could be caused by a recent event, or even nothing at all) for him to resort to suicide.

    You know, I read about Alan Turing’s suicide recently. He was subjected to chemical castration for being gay, but his treatment program had ended a while before he committed suicide. A lot of people blame that therapy, but it’s likely there were larger issues at play. In both the cases of Turing and Murphy, I suspect that it’s a combination of the oppressive society they found themselves in and a depressive episode that left them briefly convinced that there was no way out other than death. Sadly, a brief time is all it takes.

  7. Why don’t doctors try to cure more damaging personality disorders such as sociopathic greed? Honestly, a half-dozen bank executives have done more damage to the world than all the homosexuals that ever lived.

  8. I don’t see how you can blame the doctor without also blaming the parents. I don’t want to speculate too much on what his family life was like growing up, but I wonder what pressures he was under growing up with parents that felt the need to take him for experimental therapy because they were concerned he was effeminate. It seems plausible there is a lot of blame to go around.

    1. It was the mom who took him in for acting “too queer”, and she was the one who continued assigning him the “queer points” for which dad beat him enthusiastically at the end of every week. And then, rather than protect him, his mom told him to “cry harder” so the beatings would be less severe. Gotta wonder who the real monster is here. She started it. She perpetuated it and today she blames the doctor. I realize it’s a shaky position around here to blame her, but your mom is supposed to be there to ferociously protect you from the dangers of the world, not throw you into them. She hated homosexuality more than she loved her son.

  9. Although the word “directly” was inserted by Sam Ogden, and this may be what’s throwing people off, it looks like a lot of people here have a hard time dealing with multiple sufficient causes.

    An effect can be directly caused by several things, each of which would be sufficient by itself to cause the effect.

    So yes, his suicide was directly caused by George Rekers, even though there may also have been other relevant factors.

  10. I blame all the adults involved. I blame the mother, I blame the father, I blame the Dr, I blame George Rekers.

    The one person I don’t blame is the victim. Children are never responsible for being abused.

    It is always easiest to blame the victim because they are always the weakest, most vulnerable individual, and in this case is dead and can’t respond.

    Given how badly this treatment turned out for the subject, all of the papers by Rekers claiming success should be retracted.

    It took 50 years for the UK to admit it was wrong in how it treated Turing. Lets work to correct this wrong too.

  11. I blame a bad back…oh wait, no…that’s Reker’s excuse for hiring a male escort.

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