VA Doc Recommends State Pay For Inmate’s Gender-Reassignment Surgery

If an endocrinologist’s recommendation is followed, the state of Virginia will start paying for prison inmates’ gender-reassignment surgeries.

Dr. Christina Gherghe was hired by the Department of Corrections to give an opinion in the case of Ophelia De’Lonta, a 51-year-old trans woman currently serving a 70-year-sentence at Buckingham Correctional Facility for robbery, weapons and drug offenses. De’Lonta, who’s already been incarcerated for 33 years, was denied surgery and subsequently tried to castrate herself.

In 2004, she won the right to hormone treatments and to have prison officials address her as a woman, among other necessities. But she says going without the $20,000 surgery is tantamount to torture.  “I’m being tortured because I can’t receive the treatment I’m suppose to have. So, you just let me suffer,” she told NBC12 News. “The only way that’s going to change if my medical situation changes. If that doesn’t change, it’s like being choked to death and [I] can’t breathe.”

Reviewing De’Lonte’s case, Gherghe recommended a orchiectomy, or testicle removal. But, as Gherghe wrote to De’Lonte, “I can not write this as an order. I can only suggest it to your doctors.” De’Lonta hopes Gherghe’s letter will help in her appeal.