Mental patients at service told castration is answer

The Associated Press
Saturday November 18, 2000

ATASCADERO — A nurse who told patients worshipping at a state mental hospital that castration would set them free is being investigated after one patient removed one of his testicles. 

Atascadero State Hospital nurse Hal Tune, who worked with sexually violent predators, delivered the freedom-through-castration sermon on Oct. 28. He is now being investigated for possibly jeopardizing the health of the patients. 

Officials were also investigating whether the unauthorized church message led one of the patients to slice off one of his testicles about a week later, hospital spokeswoman Leslie Malcom said. 

Tune, who said he was not disciplined by hospital authorities but instead chose to retire last week, advocated removal of the testicles as a way to eliminate deviant sexual urges. 

More than a dozen patients walked out in the middle of Tune’s message. 

“Hal said he had a message of hope. I thought the message would be positive. But when he said ’surgical castration,’ the whole place erupted,” patient Rex McCurdy said. 

Tune said he based his speech on an essay he wrote about sexually violent predators.  

The essay “Hope for the SVP” cites biblical fragments, statistics about sex offender recidivism and details about the surgery. 

“You will be released from a sense of guilt of your sexual behavior. Your mind will no longer dwell on it. Imagine the peace of mind, never to be tempted to repeat your crime,” Tune said, reading from the essay he distributed to patients. 

Tune said he spoke to patients on his own time before his shift officially started and that he was not delivering the message in his capacity as a hospital nurse. 

Malcom said Tune wasn’t authorized to talk to patients about castration during the religious service and he didn’t get permission to speak about the controversial subject. 


Tune said from his Morro Bay home that he didn’t think he needed permission and he didn’t think there was anything improper about his lecture. 

“I wanted these folks to have some hope,” Tune said. “This way they will find happiness. That’s how I found happiness.” 

Tune said he was castrated five years ago after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Since the operation, he is no longer having sexual fantasies, he said. 

Patient Steven Cerniglia filed a complaint against Tune on Monday claiming castration recommendations from someone viewed as an authority figure can have tragic results on the mentally ill. 

“He was up there playing God and doctor,” Cerniglia said. 

Some patients claimed Tune’s speech was partially responsible for the actions of a fellow patient who mutilated his genitals with a pen. 

But Douglas Rose, the 28-year-old patient who removed one of his testicles about a week after Tune’s address, denied that the speech had anything to do with his decision to castrate himself. 

“I did it because of deep personal issues,” Rose said, noting he didn’t attend Tune’s church speech and had previously attempted to castrate himself.