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March 02, 2012

And now let us consider the vasectomy

One of today's Long Reads. Should You Get a Vasectomy?: Men's Lives: GQ
The operating room is cold. The walls are busy with gruesome anatomical diagrams, cross sections that make the male genitalia resemble charcuterie. I lie back on the table, draw the paper sheet over my crotch, and seconds later the doctor and an older, hen-shaped nurse enter the room. They go to work, flopping back my penis, arranging tools on a tray, positioning a stool between my legs. I squint into the blinding lights while the nurse snaps on latex gloves and my doctor shaves my scrotum. Then it's time. He warns me: In a moment, I will feel a prick like a hornet's sting—the local anesthetic. There it is, the sharpness easing into a spreading dullness. Weeks later a friend will tell me that if he had one bit of advice for someone undergoing the v-sec, it would be this: When the doctor asks if you can feel it, say yes. You get a second shot. When my doctor asks if I can feel it, I mutter something noncommittal, and he takes this as a green light and slices me open. I don't scream, but I clamp my jaw so tightly it clicks. I arch my back so much I end up looking behind me at the door. The technique differs from doctor to doctor. Some cut diagonally. Some puncture "keyholes" with a hemostat on either side of the scrotum. Mine scalpels a vertical slash right down the middle. The room is cold, but I am sweating. How I regret not accepting the Valium. The doctor explains the procedure as it progresses. Apparently some men don't have pronounced enough vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm outward from the testicles, making the vasectomy impossible. But mine look great, he says. I would tell him thank you if I had a voice. He will now sever the right vas deferens and excise a length of the tube, making recanalization close to impossible. "Now," he says, his voice lowering, "you may feel a hot nauseating spike of pain that reaches up your right side." Nobody I have spoken to, nothing I have read, mentioned anything about hot nauseating spikes of pain. Before I can steel myself to the idea, I hear a snip. The noise of garden shears deadheading geraniums. I am unable to breathe. I cannot see what the doctor is doing, but he very well might have shoved a furnace-baked length of rebar through my groin and into my torso. I am introduced to vast, intricate networks of pain I never knew existed. Doctors used to tie off the tubes, but they would occasionally come undone. These days cauterization is the standard. My doctor tells me this, and I smell my flesh cooking, hear it sizzling. "There we go," he says, and I tremble out a moan, thinking we are done, thinking I can escape this place and curl up in a dark room. But no. We are only halfway there. "On to the next testicle!" the nurse says and pats me on the thigh.

February 26, 2012

Why do innocent people confess?

Why Do Innocent People Confess? - NYTimes.com
If you have never been tortured, or locked up and verbally threatened, you may find it hard to believe that anyone would confess to something he had not done. Intuition holds that the innocent do not make false confessions. What on earth could be the motive? To stop the abuse? To curry favor with the interrogator? To follow some fragile thread of imaginary hope that cooperation will bring freedom? Yes, all of the above. Psychological studies of confessions that have proved false show an overrepresentation of children, the mentally ill and mentally retarded, and suspects who are drunk or high. They are susceptible to suggestion, eager to please authority figures, disconnected from reality or unable to defer gratification. Children often think, as Felix did, that they will be jailed if they keep up their denials and will get to go home if they go along with interrogators. Mature adults of normal intelligence have also confessed falsely after being manipulated. False confessions have figured in 24 percent of the approximately 289 convictions reversed by DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project. Considering that DNA is available in just a fraction of all crimes, a much larger universe of erroneous convictions — and false confessions — surely exists. Officers are taught to use all the tricks and lies that courts permit within the scope of the Fifth Amendment’s shield against self-incrimination. John E. Reid & Associates, which has trained thousands of interrogators, suggests that a suspect be induced to waive his constitutional rights to silence and counsel by giving him the famous Miranda warning “casually” and not immediately after arrest, when he is “defensive and guarded” and “more likely to invoke his rights.” When a skilled questioner splices it nonchalantly into conversation, the warning’s empowering message of choice can be lost on a suspect. Many false confessors have been routinely Mirandized in this perfunctory manner.