Above is the headline for the following piece, published last weekend by Associated Press…
Considering he sits at the defendant's bench accused of murder, Armand Tetzlaff wears a curiously confident expression. He fondles the bracelet on his right wrist as though its inscription predicts his acquittal. The bracelet is engraved with the words, “Testosterone Poisoning Syndrome.” Indeed, his affliction—“TPS,” as it's known in medical circles—is his legal defense.
Tetzlaff does not contest the charge of homicide. He freely admits shooting Ohio school principal Howard Boyington in the spring of 2004. The school's custodian at the time, Tetzlaff was known to stock his barn with a veritable armory of guns and ammunition, and to haul a deadly selection in the cab of his pickup truck. Police could not, however, determine that he had violated any laws, at least not until the morning he sauntered into Boyington's office and, without a word, blew off Boyington's head with a soft-nosed slug from a .357 magnum.
Tetzlaff would be just another homicidal maniac had not a suspicious physician at the Cuyahoga County Jail sent a blood specimen to a clinic that specializes in Testosterone Poisoning Syndrome. The Clinic—the Sonoma Hormone Research Center in Santa Rosa, California—confirmed that Tetzlaff was indeed a TPS victim.
Its medical director, Dr. Harold Peterson, a graying, mild-mannered diplomate of the American College of Endocrinology, defines TPS as intensely exaggerated effects of the male hormone, testosterone.
“Those afflicted,” he explains, “suffer persistent feelings of tightness, constipation, and preoccupation with strength and dominance. TPS victims typically fear women, fear other men, wear baseball caps to bed, and are drawn to violent televised sports. What we're talking about here,” he continues, “is the ‘strong, silent type’ who explodes unpredictably after a minor provocation.”
Cuyahoga County Deputy District Attorney Marvin Goldstein offers a blunt reply: “Rubbish! There's no such thing as Testosterone Poisoning Syndrome. If you can say your hormones made you do it, then the next defense down the pike will be the tooth fairy or even Twinkies.”
Oblivious to the opinions of Ohio prosecutors, Dr. Peterson goes on to describe the history of this strange condition. “I first considered the possibility of TPS in 1968, when I heard a fascinating remark by one of the Presidential candidates’ physicians. He said women shouldn’t run for the presidency because their hormonal tides might trigger catastrophe. Bluntly—to paraphrase him—‘Who wants a premenstrual finger on the doomsday button?’
“So I began to wonder whether there might be an analog in men. As you know, women run a monthly cycle, the regularity of which gives them a perspective on their ups and downs. But men run their cycle just once, from adolescence to senility: a quick peak, a long plateau, and a gradual decline. Without the regular contrast women experience, we men confuse our hormone load with our personality.
“Now, knowing that, would we rather have the doomsday button under the finger of a woman who’s crabby a few days a month or a man who’s belligerent fifty years straight? In fact, which hormones built the button in the first place?”
The man at the defendant’s bench, the man screaming at the light heavyweights, the man now arming his car bomb, and the man in the Oval Office all have one thing in common: testosterone. Can their own hormones actually lead them into antisocial behavior?
“Only time will tell," concludes Dr. Peterson. “All I’m sure of is that we need more research."
What do you think about TPS, and, for that matter, Pathologic Niceness Disorder? Postmature Birth Syndrome? Will we soon have available a vaccine against human error? Will we grow human clones in labs for their organs? How much “medical news” do you believe?