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.