Can Psychopaths Be Identified Before They’re Born?
Last week, I was shocked, pained and emotionally wrought. And the reason is none other than the phenomenal and popular thriller South Korean television show, Mouse, starring Lee Seung gi, Lee Hee Joon, Park Ju Hyun, and Kyung Soo Jin.
It was very satisfying to feast my eyes on the jaw-dropping transformation of Jung Bareum into a humongous evil monster and the magnificent way the coin of the story was flipped. However, what really caught my attention and got me thinking was the question on which the well-grounded storyline was based: is it possible to scan a psychopath in the mother’s womb?
The Genesis of the Story
The emotional ballistics of this new K-drama was actually inspired by a real-life murder case that in 2017 that terrorized the whole of South Korea.
It all started when an eight-year-old girl wanted to contact her mother and was lured by the 17-year-old girl whose last name is Kim and who promised to lend her phone to the girl. When the accused brought the little girl to her apartment, the latter was strangled and her body was hidden on the rooftop of the apartment. Later on, she stabbed the girl several times and then chopped up the body.
According to the police investigation, right before the kidnapping, the girl sent a message to her accomplice, who has the surname Park, where she said, “I am going on the hunt.” And, right after the murder act, she said, “I have returned home. The situation was good.” The accomplice then asked, “Were the fingers pretty?” to which the girl replied that the victim’s fingers were indeed pretty. Afterward, it was revealed that the girl gave a part of the victim’s remains to her accomplice.
Now, even though Kim was sentenced to 20 years in prison, such cruelty can never be forgiven. The parents would never get back their child and they would always be haunted by this vile and inhuman act.
However, what’s more, shocking is when the victim’s mother asked the accused how she was feeling after committing such a barbaric act. The answer was neither guilt nor a sorry, but rather, “The weather is nice, but it’s going to be hard for me not to see cherry blossoms.”
This response alone was enough to arouse the fury of the whole nation. But, maybe that’s the kind of answer you can expect from a psychopath.
One definition of psychopathy is that it is a condition characterized by the absence of empathy. But, I would say forget about empathy, a psychopath doesn’t have what you called “humanity”. They are creepy monsters who cannot feel any guilt, sympathy, compassion, or regret. While the victims’ families would spend their whole lives suffering in pain, these monsters, even those behind prison bars, would continue wishing and trying to kill.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard it before, but it is believed that there are some biological differences that make psychopaths what they are. That is, they are monsters because they were born monsters.
Now, of course, some claimed that upbringing could lead to the creation of these monsters. But, today, we will focus only on the science side.
Normally, females are usually born with two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome.
However, did you know that some people can be born with an extra chromosome? For example, there is the XYY syndrome, where males can be born with two Y chromosomes. But, what’s the connection between being born with an extra chromosome and a psychopath?
Well, as per several studies, a hypothesis was created where a chromosome abnormality can make a person become a psychopath. Or, rather, a person with that extra chromosome is born a psychopath.
Let me give you some examples:
- Ever heard of Richard Speck? Well, the name might sound as if it’s an influential university professor or doctor. But, he is actually an American mass murderer who, for five continuous hours, tortured, raped and killed eight nurses. Meaning in five hours, he ended the lives of 8 people and cast a curse of endless sadness on their families. And, according to his lawyers, the reason behind his inhuman act was an extra Y chromosome.
- Bobby Joe Long is another serial killer and rapist with an extra X chromosome. And, extra chromosome led to an excess production of estrogen, which caused his breast to develop in such a way that caused him a lot of embarrassment and anger. And, what he did to vent his frustration? He raped over 50 women and killed at least ten women. The moron!
Now, even though there is not really any genuine or accurate evidence to prove that an extra chromosome can lead to psychopathic behavior, several studies and cases (like the ones mentioned above) represent some kind of logical explanation behind this kind of inhuman and savagely aggressive behavior.
Now comes the question, can doctors identify those with extra chromosomes even before they are born?
Chromosome problems can be diagnosed before birth through the following tests:
- Amniocentesis: This is a prenatal test that takes a sample of amniotic fluid, the fluid that surrounds a fetus in a pregnant woman. And, this test is usually done between the 15th and 20th week of pregnancy.
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): Another prenatal testing where a sample of the chorionic villi is removed from the placenta and this test is usually done between the 15th and 13th week of pregnancy.
- Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS): A more accurate test is done by taking a sample from the umbilical cord and this test is usually done between the 18th and 22nd week of pregnancy.
The Psychopathic Gene
Psychopaths are born with the same body parts as all ordinary human beings, but they have a different gene from ours. This is why they won’t feel the pain of others at all. Neither will they understand and experience feelings like guilt, sympathy, love or regret. Which eventually leads us to believe that one should not expect repentance or atonement from them.
Going back to the 2017 murder case in South Korea, we can then understand the response of the defendant as psychopaths can easily turn a blind eye to what they have done and still lead comfortable lives. In other words, however brutal or vile acts they may have committed, they will not even feel 1 % of remorse or guilt, which unleashes our unbearable rage.
Now, even though researchers claimed that they have not yet found the real “killer gene”, there is one particular gene that can explain extremely brutal or aggressive behavior.
MAOA (Monoamine Oxidase A), a protein-coding gene, also known as the “warrior gene” has been often linked with aggression and anti-social behavior, especially those with low activity MAOA (MAOA-L). And, people who possess this gene tend to indulge in more violent behaviors and cannot feel empathy compared to others.
So, let’s once again return to our question, can doctors identify those with MAOA-L even before their birth?
Apparently, there are not really any prenatal tests that can be done to diagnose this gene. But, people with a family background of Brunner syndrome (that is, the genetic disorder characterized by the mutation of the MAOA gene) are recommended to carry out a sequence analysis.
Now, let me ask you a question. Imagine, with all the current advances in technology, if science does indeed make it possible to scan a psychopath accurately in the mother’s womb using fetal genetic testing, will it then be wise to bring that child into the world?