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MA Prisoner Becomes First Inmate To Have Gender-Reassignment Surgery Paid For By State

A transgender inmate in Massachusetts has won the right to have the state pay for her gender-reassignment surgery, after a US District Judge agreed that the surgery was medically necessary, reports the AP.

In 1990, Robert Kosilek was convicted of murdering his wife. A decade later, now living as a woman and known as Michelle, she sued the Department of Corrections, arguing the state was responsible for her medical care, and  therefore required to fund the operation.

This week, a judge agreed, ruling that surgery is the “only adequate treatment” for Kosilek, citing her Eighth Amendment right to adequate medical care.

Judge Mark Wolf deemed the “anguish” Kosilek feels being in the wrong body—anguish that led her to try to castrate herself and attempt suicide twice—as constituting a serious medical need. Wolf wrote in his decision that “it also places him [sic] at high risk of killing himself if his major mental illness is not adequately treated.” While prisoners in other states have tried to sue for coverage of gender-reassignment surgery, this is believed to be the first time a federal judge has ordered prison officials to provide such treatment.

But the verdict was not met with universal support: “We have many big challenges facing us as a nation, but nowhere among those issues would I include providing sex change surgery to convicted murderers. I look forward to common sense prevailing and the ruling being overturned,” said Sen. Scott Brown. House Republican Leader Bradley Jones called the surgery more a”medically desirable than a necessity” and worried it would open the floodgates for requests for procedures from other inmates.

For Kosilek, though, the ruling is a just one: “Everybody has the right to have their health care needs met, whether they are in prison or out on the streets,” Kosilek told the AP in 2o11. “People in the prisons who have bad hearts, hips or knees have surgery to repair those things. My medical needs are no less important or more important than the person in the cell next to me.”

Does compassionate medical care for prison inmate extend to gender-reassignment surgery? Render your verdict in the comments section.

 

By:           Dan Avery
On:           Sep 5, 2012
Tagged: , , , ,

  • 6 Comments
    • tdx3fan
      tdx3fan

      I was completely unaware that being transgendered was a “major mental illness.” If that is truly the case, then maybe they can come up with a cure other than gender reassignment surgery. Lets all thank this judge for clarifying things for us.

      Actually, lets thank him for giving the people that are anti-transgendered a great deal of ammo both for that comment and for the ruling he made.

      Sep 5, 2012 at 7:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jwrappaport
      jwrappaport

      Yes, on two grounds: (1) the inmate exhibited severe gender dysphoria to the extent that, absent treatment, she was a threat to her own physical safety; and (2) this is such a sufficiently rare occurrence that I don’t think the usual GOP tax boogeyman argument holds any more water than usual.

      Regarding Jones’s obvious reductio ad absurdum, there is nothing here or in the CNN piece on this story to suggest that the threshold for obtaining medical treatment in prison is any lower now because of the court’s ruling. I imagine that, for treatment to be permitted by a corrections department, it must be shown to be necessary to maintain a baseline level of physical and/or mental health of the inmate. I don’t see how providing treatment here disturbs that.

      Sep 5, 2012 at 7:49 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • sweetbrandigirl2004
      sweetbrandigirl2004

      @tdx3fan: Since your So in the dark let me clear things up for you. First “Transgendered” is a mental Illness in fact it’s not even a word. That said having Gender Dysphoria is a legitimate medical condition that means person is a GID transsexual for which the cure is gender reassignment surgery according to the DSMIV. However there are people that are transgender and for many of them surgery isn’t an interest or a necessity. You should really educate yourself on the different groups out there for NOT everyone who dresses in clothes opposite their birth sex is transgender. Theres CDers, Drag Queens, Transvestites none of which live as the opposite gender but enjoy dressing up occasionally. As for those who feel the need to have a complete sex change to be who they we’re meant to be and are driven by a deep desire to feel whole and complete the need for GRS surgery imperative, those individuals are transsexuals.

      Sep 5, 2012 at 9:25 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Eric Auerbach
      Eric Auerbach

      Great. Tax payer dollars going to fund a murderer’s sex change.

      Sep 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • drockboston
      drockboston

      I’m all for her getting the surgery, but she should either pay for it herself or ask for donations.

      Sep 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jessie R
      Jessie R

      It should be simple: the government is responsible for all medically necessary treatment for its prisoners. The AMA, APA and other medical professional organizations consider the treatment necessary. Therefore the government should pay for it whether or not doing so is a popular decision. The government or popular opinion should not get to override professional medical opinion.

      Sep 8, 2012 at 7:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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