The prisoner, 49, already had amputated much of his genitals several years ago, prison spokeswoman Cathy Kopoian said.
On Thursday the man apparently used a razor blade to cut off what remained.
He was rushed by medics to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett with serious cuts to the groin, she said. Doctors there sent the man to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the region's trauma center.
Prisoners are permitted basic necessities, including razors, under state law, she said. Prison officials didn't consider the man at risk to harm himself.
The man was convicted July 1, 1977, for aggravated first-degree murder, Kopoian said. He's serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole in the special offenders unit, a part of the prison reserved for treating prisoners with mental health issues.
Self-administered penile amputations are a dangerous and painful form of self-mutilation, said Dr. Thomas Walsh, a urologist at UW Medical Center, a specialty treatment center.
"It can be life-threatening," he said.
If blood loss can be stopped, the patient usually can be stabilized. Prison officials didn't know the prisoner's condition Thursday afternoon.
Whenever possible, doctors attempt to reattach the organ, a complicated and costly procedure, Walsh said. The success rate is typically around 50 percent.
Penile amputation is a rare condition and doctors in Seattle deal with only about one case each year, the urologist said.
This kind of self-mutilation typically is caused by psychosis, said Dr. Bruce Gage, the chief of psychiatry for the state Department of Corrections.
"People who cut themselves or hurt themselves are rarely trying to kill themselves," he said.
More often they are trying to bring about some kind of change or find relief from inner pain, Gage said.
Other psychiatric problems, including personality disorders, also can cause people to hurt themselves. It's most often not associated with people with gender identity issues, he said.
Treatments vary depending on the underlying condition, Gage said.
Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, firstname.lastname@example.org
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